Organic food is ‘healthier’ than its chemically produced counterparts, EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski told reporters at an event marking the launch of the EU’s long-awaited organic action plan on Thursday 25 March.
The Commissioner said that although all food on the European market is safe and subject to “strict control of the highest safety standards”, organic production is overall the healthiest option.
“Our consumers can be sure that the food we have in our market is produced in Europe, as well as the imported food. [food], is controlled and safe. But of course the organic products, the production methods, they should ensure higher health standards, ”he said, adding that in an ideal world he would like to see all agriculture in Europe grown organically. .
“Products made without chemical intervention are healthier,” he continued, stressing that this is particularly the case for locally produced foods.
Organic farming has a lower environmental impact than conventional production and there is a growing demand for organic food both in Europe and around the world as more and more people look for healthy food, Wojciechowski said during the presentation of the long-awaited European plan.
The plan aims to incentivize both production and consumption of organic produce across the bloc, in line with the ambitious target included in the EU’s flagship farm-to-fork food policy of seeing 25% of organically cultivated agricultural land by 2030.
“I am convinced that with this plan we will increase the area of organic farming and the production of organic food for the benefit of human health, the environment, the climate and animal welfare”, Wojciechowski said.
The action plan aims to provide a clear roadmap to achieve this goal, although it does not present any new legislative initiatives on the part of the Commission.
Using a push-pull approach, the plan outlines a three-pronged approach to achieving the goal. Demand and production should be increased and the contribution of organic farming to sustainability improved.
The stated aim of the plan is to “encourage a marked increase in the share of organic farming in the EU, by encouraging farmers to convert to organic farming and by expanding the accessibility of organic food to fill the gap between a business-as-usual growth curve and the “extra effort” needed to reach a target of 25% by 2030. ”
This involves measures such as promoting the logo of EU organic products, increasing the share of organic food in public markets, such as in school and public canteens, and investing in research and innovation. .
Jan Plagge, president of the European association of organic products IFOAM Organics Europe, welcomed the plan, which, alongside the F2F strategy, will mark a “new era for the transformation of our food systems towards organic and agroecology”.
“The Commission has proposed concrete measures to stimulate organic demand”, he said, citing the budget of 49 million euros for organic as part of the promotion policies and the integration of organic products in the minimum mandatory criteria for sustainable public procurement.
In addition, Plagge hailed as “timely steps” the decision to allocate at least 30% of Horizon Europe funding for agriculture, forestry and rural areas to topics relevant to the organic sector, as well as conducting a study on the real price of food and the role of taxation.
The EU’s umbrella organization for the pesticides and biopesticides industries, CropLife Europe, also hailed the action plan as an “important part of the farm-to-fork equation”.
“While there are important trade-offs to be taken into account through increasing organic farming in the EU, we recognize the importance of boosting sustainability through increased diversity in farming practices. Our industry will continue to innovate to meet the needs of organic farmers, ”a spokesperson told EURACTIV.
Europe has one of the largest shares of organic farmland in the world and was home to nearly 14 million of the 70 million hectares of organically cultivated farmland in the world in 2018.
Although far from dominating the sector, organically cultivated land accounted for around 8% of total agricultural land in the EU in 2018, compared to just over 1.5% of organically cultivated land globally.
[Edited by Gerardo Fortuna and Josie Le Blond]