New alliance aims to lead the way in organics

By Paul Gander

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Soil association, Organic food, Organic farming

New alliance aims to lead the way in organics
Eight organisations from as many European countries have formally announced the creation of the Leading Organic Alliance (LOA), a grouping which will co-operate closely to push at the boundaries and definitions of what is ‘organic’.

The LOA brings together Bio-Austria, Bioforum (Belgium), CAAE (Spain), Debio (Norway), ICEA (Italy), KRAV (Sweden), Naturland (Germany) and the Soil Association (UK).

In the past, organisations such as the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) have struggled to reconcile differing local interpretations of organic farming around the world.

But at current LOA co-ordinator CAAE, director general José Luis Garcia Melgarejo said: “We are emphasising what our various organisations have in common rather than the differences.” ​He added: “We share a more comprehensive vision than others of what the term ‘organic’ entails.”

Aims include promoting organic farming, protecting standards and establishing best practice.

In a statement echoing the alliance’s memorandum of understanding, KRAV director Lars Nellmer commented on the current EU legal definition of ‘organic’: “While this is a good starting point, there is a considerable gap between this and what is genuinely organic in its deepest sense.”

Without being a lobbying organisation, the LOA sees part of its mission as staying ahead of current regulation and making the term ‘organic’ more broadly and deeply applicable.

“There is a series of target areas – such as climate change and carbon footprint - that the present regulation doesn’t address,”​ said Melgarejo at CAAE. “There are also other sectors, such as catering, which are currently excluded by the regulation.”

Keeping cutting edge

At the Soil Association, policy adviser Francis Blake said: “The European regulation has done a fantastic job, but there are clear limitations. Inevitably, you start to take a ‘lowest common denominator’ approach. We want to keep that cutting edge, and that’s what has brought us together.”

Blake cited animal welfare as another area of joint interest for LOA members. Current definitions focusing on the space each animal is allocated are inadequate, he said. “We want to identify some improved indicators of good treatment.”

Other areas of interest include packaging specifications. “The organic regulation does not really address this, and in fact it would be difficult for it to do so,”​ Blake admitted.

The LOA has said it would welcome approaches from other organisations from Europe and beyond which can adhere to its memorandum of understanding.

But CAAE’s Melgarejo stated that there was “no duplication and no conflict” ​when it came to the activities and objectives of IFOAM.

Organisations representing the French and Danish markets – both very successful with organics in recent times – are conspicuous by their absence from the current LOA lineup.

Blake at the Soil Association explained: “In Denmark, the industry has government standards, it doesn’t have its own. And in France, there isn’t really an independent standards-setting organisation or infrastructure.”

That might explain why leading organics organisations in these two countries were reluctant to join an alliance aiming to push towards new standards in several areas.

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