The aim is to make it easier for consumers to identify organic products, with a 'common concept' across all member states.
At present organic foods may bear the organic logo for their individual member state. Under the new regulation it will be compulsory for them to also carry either the EU logo, which has existed for a number of years, or to wording 'EU organic'.
If they opt for the wording, this may appear in other European languages aside from English.
Commission spokesperson Johan Reyniers told FoodNavigator.com that labelling is the main area in which the new regulations differ from the old. But other key aspects govern organic content and GMOs: at least 95 percent of the final product must be organic for it to be labeled as such. Although products containing GMOs may not be labeled as organic, there is an exception for those with up to 0.9 percent GMO content from accidental contamination.
According to the IFOAM EU Group, the Europe-wide voice of the organic movement, this closes a legal loophole which allowed GMO containing products to be labelled as organic as long as the labelling also admitted to the GMOs.
Moreover for farmers, some flexibility in organic methods is permitted to allow for regional climate and conditions.
The regulations will come into force for EU member states in January 2009. For imports, for which there are presently no rules, they will be effective from January 2007. Such imports must comply with EU standards or come with equivalent guarantees from their country of origin.
Reyniers said that there have been a lot of modifications to the current organic regulations between 1990 and 2005, and by bringing all of these together into one document the Commission is seeking to present the rules as simply as possible.
Agriculture and rural development commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said: "It will become easier not for consumers to recognize organic products and understand their environmental and animal welfare benefits… [the new regulations] guarantee that consumers know what they are buying and farmers know precisely what rules to follow."
The proposal's approval has met with an initial optimistic response from IFOAM, which put forward the wishes of the organic sector.
"We are happy to see that many of our suggestions can be found in the Commission's current proposal," said Sabine Eigenschink, chair of IFOAM's regulatory committee.
Francis Blake, president of the UK's Soil Association, said: "Of course, this is just the beginning. Much thought and discussion is still needed to create an ambitious and implementable new organic regulation."
Datamonitor estimates that in 2004, the total market for organic food in Europe was worth €20.7 billion, and that the market grew by 26 percent from 2001.