In Brussels, a process is currently underway on a new law that will replace the current common legislation for organic production within the EU.
Both the new and the old law govern how food is to be produced, processed and traded in order to be called organic. If Sweden votes in favor of the proposal, the government will contribute to hampering the Swedish food sector, limiting the opportunity for development for the world's poor farmers, bureaucracy growing and tax-financed investments having no effect. However, some clear benefits of the new law are difficult to see.
Organic farming is a growth industry. In Sweden, the extra payment for organic food provides an opportunity for small and large producers spread across the country to build for the future. It takes place partly on one's own farm, but also indirectly in the area where one operates and in the Swedish companies that process organic raw materials. Organic farming is also a way out of poverty for farmers in developing countries whose products can be exported to richer parts of the world, not least to the EU. In both cases, the development is primarily a result of a gradually increasing demand for organic food. In other words, it is a market-driven development that the government in other contexts usually wants to facilitate and support.
If Sweden votes yes to the new bill, it also counteracts the goals of the food strategy that the government itself has initiated. According to the strategy, the competitiveness of Swedish agriculture will be strengthened and one of the goals is for organic production to increase in scope. In addition, this is contrary to the recent decision to add SEK 175 million to stimulate the transition to organic production in Sweden. The policy pursued is inconsistent and the resources invested in more organic production receive only a limited exchange.
Against this background, it is strange that the Swedish government, in a preliminary vote in June, unlike our neighboring countries Finland and Denmark, voted in favor of the legislation. The proposal was adopted with the smallest possible number of votes. Now, at a meeting this autumn, they are also voting in favor of establishing the law. With the new law, it will be more difficult and more expensive to produce organic food in Sweden. The proposal also has a protectionist cape aimed at poor countries' ability to export their organic products to the EU.
What are the main shortcomings of the proposed new law?
Increased bureaucracy. The proposal states krav on the establishment of databases, and further exchange of information between authorities, control bodies and the European Commission. There is already a functioning certification of organic production and trade between different EU countries is in full swing. What the EU needs are more organic products, not more bureaucracy.
2. New krav on import. The proposal is unreasonable krav in countries outside Europe so that they can sell organic food to countries within the EU. 90 percent of the world's organic farmers are in poor countries and the EU's new organic law makes it difficult for them to develop their businesses. This goes against "Global Development Policy" and the global sustainability goals in Agenda 2030.
3. Organic farmers are given responsibility for the use of chemicals by others. The proposal includes a rule that makes organic farmers responsible for whether their products are contaminated with pesticides from the production of conventional neighbors. It is an unreasonable principle that creates legal uncertainty in organic farming.
Uncertain conditions for Swedish greenhouse growers. The proposal means that common forms of organic greenhouse cultivation in Sweden risk being banned in the future. An example of a product that will be banned is organic salad in a pot. On the other hand, organic herbs are allowed in pots, which in itself is an incomprehensible dividing line. It will probably also be impermissible to grow in the future in so-called "delimited soil", for example large pots, which would immediately slow down the expansion of Swedish organic greenhouse production. In the long run, Swedish organic greenhouse production risks falling sharply due to the new rules.
5. Lack of organic seeds. The proposed rules will make it very difficult, in some parts of Sweden impossible, to obtain suitable seeds for horticulture. They will also create obstacles to the cultivation of organic seeds for agricultural crops that exist in Sweden today. Both parts risk reducing the scope of Swedish organic production.
6. Severely impaired selection of breeding animals. The new rules set krav that the animals used as parent animals for the production animals in the future without exception must come from an organic farm. It may seem harmless, but the genetic basis for many of our common pet breeds is already small even with access to conventional breeding animals. Eco-production is limited in its scope and the proposal reduces them ekologiska lantbrukarnas opportunity to breed for healthy and productive animals.
7. The proposal is of no use in comparison with the current regulation. The starting point for the development of the new regulation was that it should contribute to a better environment and animal welfare. But in the negotiated compromise to a new law, it is difficult to see any clear improvements. This view is shared by most actors in the organic sector throughout Europe. The disadvantages are thus not offset by merits in other areas.
It is high time for the government and all members of the EU Committee to rethink. At the Council of Ministers' meeting, probably on 6 November, Sweden should vote against the negotiated proposal for a new regulation for organic production. Either the bill must be redone on a large number of points or rejected outright.
Niels Andresen, Operations Manager, Ekologiska Lantbrukarna
Anita Falkenek, CEO, Krav
Karin Lexén, Secretary-General, Naturskyddsföreningen
Marcus Söderlind, Chairman of LRF Trädgård
Christin Holm Gatica, TF Secretary General, Swedish Consumers
Erik Lysen, Head of the Church of Sweden's international work, the Church of Sweden
Maria Granefelt, TF Secretary General, Fairtrade Sweden
Patrik Hansson, Sweden Manager, Arla
Karin Brynell, CEO, Swedish Grocery Trade
Charlotte Bladh André, CEO, Organic Sweden
(Photo: Tomas Oneborg)
Published in SvD 2017-10-20