Organic Regulation / Apr. 2020

Sprouts from Brussel

The Delegated Act on Organic Heterogeneous Material is close to completion and the first Commission Implementing Regulations have been published.

The new notification regime for the marketing of organic heterogeneous material (“OHM”) envisaged by the Organic Regulation is still currently being shaped by the European Commission and the Group of Experts on Organic Production, which is comprised of Member States experts, with no direct involvement from stakeholders. While the lead is with the Directorate General for Agriculture (DG AGRI, Unit Organic), which negotiates with the national experts, the technical work is done by Directorate General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE, Unit Plant Health).

The Expert Group on Organics last met on 2nd March 2020, and the minutes of the meeting are available online, showing that most of the changes made to the draft text on organic heterogeneous material (“OHM”) comes from pressure from Member States’ experts to restrict the scope of the opportunities offered by the Organic Regulation to enable wider access of seed diversity to the market. The description of OHM has been considerably restricted compared to the first working paper published by the European Commission in 2019, which was close to the common letter sent by 41 organisations active in crop biodiversity in May 2019. The latest draft Delegated Act requires that historical OHM material has been managed on farm for at least six generations to several decades, or that OHM is the result of natural and/or human selection for at least three years for annual crops and five years for biennial/perennial crop. This last approach has notably been advocated by IFOAM-EU in their 2019 position paper but differs from the common denominator letter that had been found with crop diversity actors. In the latest official draft, provisions have been added with regards to denomination of OHM, while there are disagreements within the Expert Group regarding the final approach to be taken on potential post-marketing field inspections and the competent control authorities. Furthermore, within the general framework of powers delegated to the European Commission by the Organic Regulation, the first Delegated Act that has an impact on seeds has been published on 26th March 2020. Commission Implementing Regulation 2020/464 addresses the information to be provided by Member States for the databases on the availability of organic seeds; data on the basis of which derogations to use (non-treated) conventional seeds can be granted to operators by authorities.