New rules over organic production and labelling of organic products have been mooted by the European Commission.
The plans, which will now go before the European Parliament, aim to make it easier for farmers to convert to organic from conventional production.
“The future of the organic sector in the EU depends on the quality and integrity of the products sold under the European organic logo,” said EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos.
“The commission is looking for more and better organic farming in the EU by consolidating consumer confidence in organic products and removing obstacles to the development of organic agriculture.”
The proposals call for all organic produce – produced both in the EU and imported in from other countries – to adhere to the same rules, by removing any current production and controls exceptions.
In addition, the package aims to make it easier for small farmers to start organic production by allowing them to sign up to a group certification system.
The EU says legislation must be simplified to reduce administrative costs to farmers and improve transparency.
As well as unveiling the new plans, the EU has also approved an action plan on the future of organic production in Europe – this sets out to better inform farmers on rural development and EU farm policy initiatives to encourage organic farming, by strengthening the link between research projects and organic production, and encourage the use of organic food in places like schools.
SNP MEP Alyn Smith said: “With demand for organic products increasing four fold in 10 years, we need EU rules fit for purpose and while these are a good start, I want to see some tidying up before they become law.”
He said consumers needed to be confident that if they bought an EU organic-labelled product, the farmers had not used pesticides and that the product was free from contamination.
The Soil Association’s head of standards, Chris Atkinson, said: “The final proposal could still take 18-24 months to be finalised and we will be working hard make sure what is agreed will be of real benefit to farmers and processors, as well as consulting with our own licensees about the aspects that matter to them.”