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European Commission Proposes New Labelling Rules

by 5m Editor
29 May 2009, at 9:55am

EU - Action is needed to improve communication about the qualities of agricultural products — to help reconnect farmers with consumers. Quality labelling schemes must also be easier for people to use and understand and European Union policy must be more coherent.

These are the main recommendations of a European Commission Communication on agricultural product quality policy, adopted yesterday. European Union farmers meet some of the most stringent farming requirements in the world regarding environmental protection, animal welfare and the use of pesticides and veterinary drugs.

In addition, they use their expertise and skill to give their products individual qualities that add value. But do farmers get a fair return for their efforts? Do consumers get accurate information about product characteristics and farming attributes?

"The European Union's agri-food sector has a well-deserved reputation for high quality thanks to decades, even centuries, of commitment to excellence," said agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel.

“Our farmers have to build on this reputation to sustain their competitiveness. They need to communicate better with consumers about the qualities of their products. The European Union is willing to help in this effort. We have a golden opportunity to bring more coherence and simplicity to our various labelling and certification schemes."

In the Communication the Commission proposes in particular to:

  • Extend labelling that identifies the place where agricultural product was farmed.

  • Examine the feasibility of laying down specific optional reserved terms for 'product of mountain farming' and 'traditional product'. The latter could replace the current 'traditional specialities guaranteed' scheme.

  • Create a unique register for all geographical indications (for wines, spirits and agricultural products and foodstuffs) while preserving the specificities of each system.

  • Improve the single market for products under labelling schemes, particularly for organic products.

  • Improve international protection of geographical indications and contribute to the development of international standards for marketing standards and organic product.

  • Develop 'good practice' guidelines for private certification schemes to reduce potential for consumer confusion and to reduce red-tape for farmers.