Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2007-03-28-Speech-3-159"

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"Mr President, I welcome this opportunity to discuss our proposal for a new Council regulation for organic production. I want to start by thanking the rapporteur, Mrs Aubert, and the members of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development for their efforts. The thorough work that they have been doing is a very valuable contribution to our discussions. On our wish to extend the scope to cover mass caterers, cosmetics, textiles and preserved fish, I would like to point out that we cannot take all steps in one go. We are substantially extending the scope now to wine and to aquaculture. The other sectors are still at a very early stage of the development, and I think that harmonising them could hamper their development. The current text actually provides for the possibility of looking at the issue again in 2011. Linked to this, I have also noticed that you would like to see a double legal basis for this proposal. It is no secret that there is a wider discussion on the introduction of codecision for agricultural matters. This is an important issue and it is a discussion that I have clearly indicated that I welcome. But it is an issue that should be dealt with in a horizontal manner, at the proper level and in the proper context. I do not believe that it serves anyone to take an approach on a case-by-case basis. Therefore I cannot accept a change to the legal basis for the new regulation on organic farming as you have proposed. Finally, you propose that Member States may maintain or introduce stricter national rules. That is not acceptable to me. The very purpose of this regulation is to bring about a solid harmonisation at a strict enough level, with a flexibility mechanism for exceptions. By harmonising the rules at a fairly high level, with flexibility, I think we are reaching the same end, but with a reduced risk of unequal treatment of operators in similar conditions. I am convinced that this is a way to foster a thriving internal market for organic production. I am sorry to have spoken at such length, but it is a very important issue that I wanted to address in detail. With 160 000 organic farms and more than 6 million hectares of land in the European Union, the turnover of organic products is estimated to have a value of between 13 and 14 billion euros. This tendency is on the increase, so it is indeed a very important sector. There is no doubt in my mind that this expanding sector has an essential role to play. It addresses a range of expectations on the part of the public and of consumers; expectations about food quality, care for the environment, animal welfare and opportunities for developing the countryside. It is also a sector with plenty of optimism and confidence about what the future has to bring, as I was able to see clearly during my recent visit to the BioFach in Nuremberg. But in order to develop and reach its full potential, the sector needs an appropriate regulatory framework, and this is actually what we are trying to achieve with our new regulation. It is therefore a very important legislative proposal, and I am pleased with the progress that we were able to make through our deliberations last year. In 2006 very intensive discussions were held on our proposal in the Council and in Parliament. As a result, some elements from the original proposal that proved to be very sensitive ones have now totally disappeared. This includes a prohibition on higher claims, the mutual recognition of private standards by inspection bodies, and the EU organic indication. Parliament has also proposed a range of amendments in order to improve the wording of the objectives and principles of organic farming, on the indication of the origin of the products, on the explicit right to use national and private logos, on embedding of the control system in the official food and feed controls, and the reinforced guarantees on imports. These are amendments that improve the original proposal and I am therefore happy to take them on board. We have also managed to improve the emphasis of the regulation on soil fertility, soil life and soil management practices. The question of GMO and organic farming has generated a lot of debate. I have noted Parliament’s wish that operators provide proof that they have taken all the necessary steps to avoid adventitious or technically unavoidable presence of GMOs, and I could not agree more with that. So although these amendments present a reiteration of an existing requirement, I have decided to accept them because of the huge sensitivity of this issue. But let me also be completely clear: the threshold for adventitious presence of GMOs is not, as some suggest, a de facto threshold for GMO tolerance. GMOs and their derivatives remain strictly banned for use in organic production. Although the Commission and Parliament agree on the fundamental aspects of the new regulation, there are certain issues where we have not managed to see eye to eye, and I would like to touch briefly on some of these. Parliament is asking for more details, and it is clear that a lot of the detailed rules as we know them in the current regulation have been removed. But let us not forget that one of the main purposes of this proposal was to set out the basic rules more clearly and more logically. This, however, does not mean that the detailed rules that form the unique fabric of organic standards should disappear altogether. Certainly not. But I believe that they are better placed in the implementing rules, and the content of these detailed rules will, as I confirmed to you earlier on, be very similar to the detailed rules that we have in the current regulation."@en1

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