EU Organic Farming (Regulation (EC) No. 834/07)
It certifies agricultural products, processed agri-food products, feed and pet food, aquaculture products, algae and microalgae (spirulina), yeasts.
How to certify
What it is certified
- Plant production
- Animal husbandry
- Organic algae
- Food preparation
- Feed and Pet Food
- Import from Third Countries
- Mandatory European logo and indication of origin
- Control system
Organic farming aims at minimising external inputs, preserving the natural fertility of the soil and making the most of natural mechanisms and balances.
Plantations in monoculture, hydroponics and land-less crops are prohibited.
Organic farming protects biodiversity and soil fertility using broad and extensive crop rotations and succession planting, which always involve the cultivation of legumes and green manure.
Organic farming favours all mechanical cultivation techniques and native varieties that are naturally resistant to pests and diseases.
Organic farming, only when necessary, intervenes with natural fertilisers, organic soil conditioners, some natural rocks, natural products for crop protection (sulphur, copper, pyrethrum, oils and vegetable extracts etc.), and biological control techniques (competitor insects, sexual confusion, etc.).
Organic farming strictly prohibits the use of mineral fertilisers, systemic pesticides and all herbicides and geo pesticides resulting from chemical synthesis.
Organic farming prohibits the use of genetically produced seeds and plants.
The use of GMOs is also forbidden in the production of technical means, fertilisers and pesticides used in fields.
In the start-up phase, a conversion period of two years is required for annual or forage crops and three years in the case of multiannual fruit crops.
The competent authority may accept the retroactive recognition of the conversion period in case the application of the organic method is proven even during periods before the notification and entry into the control system.
The following company registers shall be regularly updated at the farm: purchasing card, crop operations card and sales card. These records may also be made available through company records and software.
Organic livestock farming shall ensure a close functional link with the land and a number of animals proportioned to the production capacity of the farm; the number of livestock shall not exceed 2 Uba/Ha.
The attention to animal welfare is maximum, the density of livestock in the stable is sharply limited, and the space for walking (movement) is much larger than the minimums required by law. Only free housing or grazing are allowed.
Organic animals are fed on high quality, non-GMO raw materials, which are derived from organic farming and, as far as possible, are of farm origin
Weaning times are longer than those typically followed in intensive animal farming.
Veterinary interventions shall give priority to natural methods such as homoeopathy, phytotherapy, etc.
The use of conventional drugs is allowed, but only in case of extreme necessity, doubling the withdrawal time.
The presence of organic and conventional animal farming of the same species is not allowed in the same farm. The duration of the conversion period varies according to the species (e.g. six months for pigs and dairy cattle, twelve months for beef cattle, ten weeks for poultry).
In case of simultaneous conversion of land and cattle farming, such period shall be fixed at 24 months.
In accordance with art. 42 of (Regulation (EC) No. 834/07), following the approval of specific national specifications, particular species (aviculture, silkworm rearing, snail farming and algae spirulina) for which technical standards have not yet been defined at European Community level, may also be certified under Regulation (EC) No. 834/07.
Aquaculture is defined as a set of activities aimed at the controlled production of aquatic organisms. In particular, it is possible to distinguish fish farming, mollusc farming, crayfish farming and algae farming.
If developed and implemented responsibly, aquaculture may represent a significant contribution to global food security and economic growth.
The exploitation of fish stocks, animal welfare, product safety and quality and consequently the protection of the marine environment have led the EU Commission to define the requirements for organic aquaculture.
In July 2010 Regulation No. 710/2009 came into force in Europe; it amended Regulation (EC) No. 889/08 and introduced technical standards for organic aquaculture.
An excellent opportunity for European aquaculture which, to face a highly competitive and globalised market, shall inevitably aim at production systems that guarantee a high level of product quality and maximum respect for the environment.
In addition to animal welfare, organic aquaculture also pays particular attention to environmental problems, by verifying the quality of the places where farming takes place.
The feed used shall meet specific nutritional requirements. Fish meals and fish oils can be used if resulting from discarded fish and, in any case, within a context of certified sustainable fishing.
Animal health management should aim at disease prevention. Significant restrictions are also imposed on the use of raw materials for feed, cleaning and disinfection products.
Fish from organic aquaculture has high organoleptic qualities and it is produced without using GMOs.
Organic certification helps to reduce the company’s impact on the environment and, in many cases, protects sensitive habitats.
European legislation also includes criteria for the organic farming of marine algae (seaweed). Harvesting of wild marine algae in areas of high ecological quality (Directive 2000/60/EC) is also an organic production method provided that this activity does not endanger the long-term stability of the natural habitat or the protection of species in the collection area.
MIPAAF (Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies) has also approved a specification for organic production of spirulina micro-algae.
The organic standards also define precise rules for the preparation of plant and animal products, aimed at limiting the use of additives, flavourings and other non-organic ingredients with mainly sensory and technological functions.
Only the milder and more direct natural additives (citric acid, ascorbic acid, etc.) are allowed, for some of which the use of the organic version is encouraged (e.g. pectin, lecithin, locust bean gum etc.). Nitrites and nitrates are permitted only for cured meats and other meat products, with strict restrictions on the usage levels.
The same applies to sulphites whose use is permitted only for the production of wine, cider (always with restrictions in the final product) and for the preservation of crustaceans.
Any added flavourings may only be used if classified under Community legislation as “natural flavourings”.
The use of ionising radiation and any substance derived from or produced from GMOs is always prohibited even for the few common ingredients allowed.
Only multi-ingredient products that contain at least 95% organic certified agricultural ingredients (excluding water, salt, additives and natural flavourings) are defined as ‘organic’.
The remaining 5% may only consist of few ingredients, not available on the Community market; such ingredients are reported in a particular list within the regulation (Regulation (EC) No. 889/08, Annex IX).
The same ingredient cannot be present in both the organic and conventional versions at the same time.
Organic production shall take place guaranteeing separate processing over time (thanks to dedicated plants) or in space. In the latter case, the installation shall be adequately cleaned before starting the organic production.
The records shall allow a correct identification and reporting of incoming and outgoing flows of raw materials and finished products.
Feed and Pet Food
The principles and criteria defined in the Regulation for the production of organic feed are similar to those provided for food preparation. In the Regulation (EC) No. 889/08 the few common ingredients, additives and adjuvants permitted, and the rules for labelling are reported.
The feed can only be labelled as ‘organic’ if it contains at least 95% organic feed materials; alternatively, it is possible to label the feed as ‘allowed in organic farming’ by specifying precisely the content in organic, conversion or conventional feed materials.
Also in the case of feed, the use of ionising radiation and any substance resulting from or produced from GMOs is prohibited.
The same ingredient cannot be present in both the organic and conventional versions at the same time.
Organic production shall take place by guaranteeing separate processing over time (thanks to dedicated plants) or in space. In the latter case, the installation shall be adequately cleaned before starting the organic production.
In compliance with art. 42 del (Regulation (EC) No. 834/07), following the approval of the National Specification for the production of animal feed, Pet-Foods may also be certified under Regulation (EC) No. 834/07.
The records shall allow a correct identification and reporting of incoming and outgoing flows of raw materials and finished product.
Import from Third Countries
The European Commission has recognized that the organic production standards and control systems adopted by some Third Countries are equivalent to those in force within the EU. Imports of organic products from these countries are permitted without prior approval by the competent authority.
The Countries that currently have a national control system recognized as equivalent to that of EU are: Israel, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Australia, Switzerland, Argentina, India, Tunisia, Japan, Canada, USA. The importer will then be able to import the product categories provided for in the Regulation and certified by the approved Bodies or Authorities (Regulation (EC) No. 1235/08 Annex III as amended by Regulation (EC) No. 508/2012).
For all the remaining countries, the possible recognition of equivalence concerns the individual Control Bodies that requested it from the EU Commission.
The same Regulation (EC) No. 508/2012 defines the list of control bodies authorised to issue equivalence certificates and indicate the product categories that can be imported (check also the exceptions listed).
All operators importing from Third Countries shall submit a specific Notification for inclusion in the National List of Importers from Third Countries. Once the results of the checks carried out by the selected Control Body have been evaluated, ICEA informs about the inclusion in the list. Only then will the operator will be entitled to start importing organic products.
The importer shall notify, at least 7 days in advance, the free circulation in the European Union of each lot imported, in accordance with the provisions of Ministerial Decree no. 18378 of 09.08.12.).
A certificate of inspection, in accordance with Annex V, shall accompany each imported lot to the Regulation (EC) No. 1235/08, issued by one of the inspection bodies recognised by the EU.
A copy of this certificate, stamped in box 17 by the customs and box 18 by the importer or first consignee in the Community, shall be sent to the ICEA Import office.
Mandatory European logo and indication of origin
Since 2007, the EU has made mandatory the use of the common organic label (the green flag with the European star leaflet) for all packaged products produced within the European Community, which contain at least 95% organic ingredients.
The code of the inspection body and the actual origin (EU/non-EU) of the constituent ingredients shall be indicated close to the European label.
By origin, it is meant the place of agricultural production, information that makes organic farming at the forefront of European consumer information policies. The wording ITALY (or Spain, France, etc.) means that 100% of the ingredients have been grown on the national territory.
The EU legislation requires all actors in the supply chain to be subject to the inspection system, from agricultural production to marketing.
These are 12 Inspection Bodies authorised by the Ministry of Agricultural and Forestry Policies for the certification of organic operators in Italy. The Regions and other public authorities in charge of supervision (Repression of Fraud, NAS, etc.) supervise such bodies.
The obligation to be subject to the control regime, initially envisaged only for agricultural, livestock and food producers, has been extended first to the retail sale of bulk and pre-packaged products (e. g. fruit and vegetables, gastronomy, bread and bakery products, etc.) and then to the activity of storage and wholesale distribution.
Only points of sale which market only packaged and sealed products sealed directly to the consumer (or end user) are exempted from the obligation to be subject to the inspection system. End-user means, for example, a farmer who buys seed from agricultural consortia and other specialised resales or caterers who are not yet subject to the control requirements provided for by Regulation (EC) No. 834/07.
How to certify
The certification process is divided into five main phases:
- Notification of production activities to the competent authority through the Biological Information System (SIB) or similar regional systems. The operator shall declare the type of activities, production units and activity chains subject to control. Farms shall declare all agricultural lands exploited in organic farming systems and converted or conventionally managed.
- Initial assessment of products and production process, the operator shall submit a management plan in order to describe all the measures he intends to take to comply with the organic requirements relating to the activity carried out. In the case of livestock production, the operator shall submit the farm management plan and the management plan for livestock manure. Farms with conventionally grown crops or borders at risk shall define precautionary measures to prevent contamination by treatments on conventional crops. In the case of parallel cultivation, it shall submit a total conversion plan for a maximum of five years. In the case of livestock production, the operator shall submit the farm management plan and the animal manure management plan. Plant Production Plan (PAPV), Preparations Plan (PAP) and Animal Husbandry/Beekeeping Plan (PAPZ), which shall be annually updated according to the procedures, deadlines established and national and regional information. Operators carrying out preparation activities shall provide a list of suppliers of organic raw materials and recipes for the preparation of all organic products for which certification is required.
- Start-up inspection to verify the correct application and effectiveness of declared management plan measures and other related documents. In addition, the suitability of the structures and the correct management of the company’s production processes are assessed as required by the European regulations for the different fields of activity.
- Issue of Documentary Evidence and Certificate of Conformity based on the information and data collected as part of the assessment and verification process. The Certificate of Conformity lists the certified products. The certificate of conformity shall include the list of certified products and their classification according to the’ organic’ or’ in conversion’ production method.
- Annual Surveillance through periodic inspections and planned analyses and organised on the basis of a careful risk analysis aimed at confirming the maintenance of compliance conditions and the punctual and correct keeping of the obligatory records required for control purposes.