According to the Commission, EU consumers can be sure that when they buy an organic apple or a piece of organic beef from their local supermarket, it has been produced according to strict rules. The control system for organic products, as set out in the EU Regulations, aims at guaranteeing that the production processes conform to organic principles. For organic products originating within the EU, Member States must set up a system of checks. Control bodies, which carry out these checks at the level of individual operators (such as producers, processors and importers) are central to this system. Organic products from outside the EU may be recognised as organic, if the production rules and control system applied to them are considered equivalent to the EU’s.
The ECA’s special report (No. 9/2012) concludes that a number of competent authorities in the Member States do not sufficiently fulfill their supervisory role over control bodies. As a result certain control bodies fail to satisfy a number of EU requirements and fail to take the opportunity to implement certain good practices. The Commission had not audited Member States’ control systems between 2001 and the time of the Court’s audit. Also, the competent authorities in Member States encounter difficulties in ensuring the traceability of organic products within their territories and such traceability is even more difficult to achieve for products that have crossed borders. In relation to imported organic products, the system governing the various import schemes was also found to have weaknesses. These and other conclusions are detailed in the special report.
A number of recommendations are made to remedy the weaknesses found during the ECA’s audit:
- the competent Member State authorities should strengthen their supervisory role over control bodies;
- the exchange of information within Member States, between the Member States and the Commission and among the Member States themselves should be improved;
- checks should be strengthened to ensure that operators (such as producers, processors, importers) fulfil the regulatory requirements regarding traceability;
- the Commission should strengthen its monitoring of the Member States’ control systems by undertaking audit visits and gathering the necessary data and information and putting it to good use;
- regarding imports, the Commission should ensure that the countries in the list of those recognised as being equivalent for organic production are adequately supervised.
Tuesday June 26, 2012/ Comisión Europea/ Unión Europea.