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IFOAM & Bionext responds to NOSB decision:

"US organic regulations place economic importance first"

At the beginning of November, the U.S. National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) decided with 8 votes in favor and 7 votes against, that organic cultivation is also acceptable to take place on aquaponics and hydroponics. This confirmed the current situation in the US. In Europe, the rule is that organic cultivation is always soil-bound.

The trend in Europe is at odds with that in the US. The current European legislation is being revised and the proposals for the new law (which goes into effect in 2020) state that from 2030 the limited exceptions are also prohibited. With this, the starting point that the cycle is central within organic is further anchored in the legislation. Dutch organic greenhouse growers are very happy with this. Ron van Dijk, board member of Nautilus Organic, the Dutch cooperative for organic growers and organic glasshouse growers: "As far as we are concerned, there is no discussion possible about this subject: Organic cultivation strives for a circular agriculture, where a plant is fed via the soil. For an organic grower it is a natural balance that is of vital importance to maintain a healthy, as much as possible, self-regulating climate in which intervention is needed as little as possible. This principle applies to organic greenhouse horticulture just as much as to organic open field farming or fruit growing."

Marian Blom of Bionext attended the NOSB voting in the US. She spoke at the hearing prior to the vote with a plea for soil-bound cultivation.

She did so on behalf of IFOAM-EU, the European umbrella organization for organic entrepreneurs (both growers, trade and processing, researchers and certifiers). Blom: "The whole organic sector in Europe opts for clear and consistent rules: in the case of organic, the soil is central. Which is also what the consumer expects from organic."

Blom is disappointed about the result. "A broad coalition of growers, trade and consumers from all over the world argued for soil-bound as the starting point. Unfortunately we did not succeed in finding a majority for this. This escalates the differences between organic in the US and organic in Europe.

Blom: "There is now a big chance that there will be a second organic label in the US, because USDA organic is no longer really organic for many people. This not only applies for exports to Europe, but also for the internal market in the US. USDA-organic is more and more becoming the label of the big industry, where not the natural principles, but earning money is most important. It is also possible in the USA to keep cows without mandatory pasture time, and still be certified as organic. Consumers expect more from organic products than just cultivation without pesticides or antibiotics."

European legislation soil-bound
The Netherlands has to deal with European laws and regulations concerning organic farming. These rules apply to all 28 Member States. In the EU, an organic product must grow in the open field. Some, very limited, exceptions are now possible. Only 20 hectares within the current acreage of more than 5,000 ha organic greenhouse cultivation fall under this exception. These fields are in Denmark, Finland and Sweden.

The current legislation is being revised and the proposals for the new law (which starts in 2020) stipulate that from 2030 these limited exceptions are also prohibited.

Another new rule in this regulation is a stricter import policy. From now on, imported products must comply with the precise rules of the EU in order to call them organic in stores. This means that imported products from the US no longer correspond with the Dutch framework. When concluding a new trade agreement, it can be decided that both organic laws are considered equivalent. Blom expects that, because of this US decision, this possibility has become a lot smaller. Soil-bound is becoming increasingly important for the EU and it is becoming more and more unlikely that imports of organic non-soil-bound products will be accepted in the future by Europe.
Source: Bionext
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