The European Parliament voted this month to support organic farming and organic food consumption in the block, by endorsing the EU Action Plan for Organic Agriculture. The adopted action plan garnered 611 votes to 14, with five abstentions. Ostensibly an endorsement of organic agriculture, a hint that something may be amiss is that enormous majority. All things to all people, nevertheless what is missing is any specific mention of the Farm to Fork target of shifting 25% of agriculture to organic. So, where’s the action on this action plan? Or is it all just hot air? Ashely Parsons has more.
A Peek Inside the Plan
The Organic Action Plan (OAP) is a 74-point plan that endorses increasing organic agriculture across the bloc. At the heart of the plan there are three axes that aim to leverage organic farming across the bloc, each sounding quite worth pursuing (here’s the full text):
1.Stimulate demand and ensure consumer trust
Increasing the consumption of organic products and strengthening consumers’ trust in them is vital to encourage farmers to convert to organics. To support continued growth and maintain a profitable market for organic operators, the Commission will undertake actions that promote organic canteens, improve traceability and prevent food fraud.
2. Stimulate conversion and reinforce the entire value chain
To continue progress in production and processing, the action plan would encourage conversion, develop analysis methods to strengthen transparency, emphasize short trade circuits, and upgrade animal nutrition to meet organic standards.
3. Lead by example: improve the contribution of organic farming to sustainability
The Commission will further improve the organic sector’s contribution to sustainability and environmental challenges through actions focused on reducing the environmental footprint, developing alternatives to potentially harmful inputs/pesticides and improving animal welfare.
Give credit where credit is due
The plan is not a catastrophe – there is much to commend it. It lays out laudable goals for organic agriculture in the EU.
IFOAM Organics Europe praised the approval of the plan, tweeting, “Existing practical agronomic solutions such as organic & agroecology will ensure food systems become more independent from external inputs, less input intensive & more resilient while ensuring Food Security for all Europeans and beyond, and profitability for farmers.
The vote shows that the Parliament agrees increasing organic agriculture is a positive shift (duh?). But it also feels like it purposefully undercuts the ambitions of the Farm to Fork legislation by omitting the plan’s targets. Pete Pakarinen, media advisor for the center right EPP Group congratulated the conservative Austrian MP Simone Schmiedtbauer for her vote on the plan: “Report on EU action plan on organic farming adopted with focus on functional markets, not target figures.”
That target figure Pakarinen is alluding to is indeed left out of the report. The OAP was expected to include an important benchmark for making sure Farm to Fork succeeds: 25% of farmland being organic by 2030. The OAP does not refer to this target in the text.
Greens deputy Claude Gruffat (left), said “This was a missed opportunity to push sustainable agriculture across all regions and [push] a diet that is better for health and the environment”
In an interview with La Nouvelle Repubilique, Gruffat expressed his disappointment: “It is not difficult to get an overwhelming majority for something so flat and shallow.”
He added, “Ce n’est pas le vent de l’environnement qui soufflait ce mardi à Strasbourg” which translates roughly to: it wasn’t for the environmental cause that this passed on Tuesday in Strasbourg.
Gruffat is onto something: this report is spectacular at supporting organic agriculture on paper, but in practice, there is no requirement for action on this “action plan.” The OAP is an own-initiative report. When approved, these reports function as a request by the Parliament to the Commission to create a legislative proposal addressing the objective of the report.
Regarding the OAP, the Commission will publish 2024 a midterm review. It seems strange that the Commission might publish legislation in 2 years’ time that would presumably include targets when the Farm to Fork strategy should be currently on the path to integration.
Simone Schmiedtbauer, the plan’s author said “the sector will ‘only grow if the market for organic products grows’ according to Euractiv.
But without a reemphasis of the Farm to Fork target, nor legal obligations to make changes, the plan can be seen as vague and self-congratulatory. Maybe that’s the aim? This plans seems to be all things to all people, and as a consequence, it is also much ado about nothing.
While it paints the appearance of a Parliament that is pushing for increasing organic agriculture, in reality it sidesteps hard decisions and the contentious issue of the 25% target for organic in Farm to Fork. pushing the real legislation of Farm to Fork off-stage. So plenty of huffing and puffing, but little of substance delivered. Hot air.
Stay tuned for a more detailed analysis of the text in our next article on organics.