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Organic food helps revive fortunes of Europe's farmers (14/6/2007)

1.Worrying step backwards by Council of Ministers on GMOs in organics - Slow Food International
2.EU's organic labeling vote upsets Italy
3.Organic growth - facts and figures - The Times
4.Organic food helps revive fortunes of Europe's farmers - The Independent

EXTRACTS: "Go into any supermarket and they are bursting with organic food, while GM foods are conspicuous by their absence. That's because consumers don't want them!" (item 4)

...on March 29, the European Parliament passed a directive setting the threshold at 0.1% - virtually zero - by a broad majority.

Not only has the Council of Ministers failed to listen to the wishes of European citizens who want to be certain that, when they buy organic, they do not buy GMOs as well, but it has also played deaf to the indications of these citizens' representatives in Parliament. (item 2)

"The Council of Agriculture Ministers' decision is wrong and damages both organic producers and the rights of consumers," Italian Environment Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio said. "We must see at once what countermeasures the Italian government and parliament can take to protect producers and consumers who want to be sure they are buying GMO-free products."

Sergio Marini, head of Italy's main farmers' association, said the EU decision would damage the public's faith in organic produce. (item 3)

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1.Worrying step backwards by Council of Ministers on GMOs in organics
Slow Food: 'This is not the way to build Europe'
Slow Food International press release, 13 June 2007
http://www.gmfreeireland.org/news/index.php

The European Union Council of Agriculture ministers voted for a 0.9% GMO tolerance threshold in Community organic agriculture regulations today. According to Slow Food, this is an extremely serious matter.

'This decision appears unjustifiable and unacceptable,' argues Carlo Petrini, president of Slow Food, 'insofar as it highlights how European political leaders fail to listen to the voice of civil society. We are bewildered and angry to learn that the causes of consumers, quality producers and all those working for a new sustainable model for the food system - especially in the agricultural sector - have been trampled upon for the umpteenth time. This is all the more serious in view of the fact that, on March 29, the European Parliament passed a directive setting the threshold at 0.1% - virtually zero - by a broad majority.'

Not only has the Council of Ministers failed to listen to the wishes of European citizens who want to be certain that, when they buy organic, they do not buy GMOs as well, but it has also played deaf to the indications of these citizens' representatives in Parliament.

'Now that the need to think about the future of our planet in a different way is evident, it's up to Europe to play a leading role in a purposeful, creative way. We have the human capital to achieve this wonderful revolution - this is the ideal to which European citizens aspire. Choices like the European Council's today go in exactly the opposite direction.'

Slow Food Press Office
Via della Mendicitý Istruita, 14
12042 Bra (Cn) - Italy
+ 39 0172 419615/ 45/ 53 /66
press@slowfood.it
www.slowfood.it

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2.EU's organic labeling vote upsets Italy
United Press International, June 12 2007
http://www.washtimes.com/upi/20070612-043846-8951

ROME, June 12 (UPI) -- Several Italian constituencies expressed ire at an EU vote allowing producers to label "organic" genetically modified organism-contaminated foods.

The EU Council of Agriculture Ministers voted to set an accidental-contamination threshold of 0.9 percent for organic produce, meaning produce can be labeled and sold as organic as long as its GMO content is below 0.9 percent, the Italian news agency ANSA said. Representatives of Italy, Belgium, Hungary and Greece were against extending this limit to organic food.

"The Council of Agriculture Ministers' decision is wrong and damages both organic producers and the rights of consumers," Italian Environment Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio said. "We must see at once what countermeasures the Italian government and parliament can take to protect producers and consumers who want to be sure they are buying GMO-free products."

Sergio Marini, head of Italy's main farmers' association, said the EU decision would damage the public's faith in organic produce.

Italy is home to Europe's largest organic food market and its producer associations have been among the most active in lobbying against the move, ANSA said.

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3.Organic growth - facts and figures from The Times http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/food_and_drink/article1923770.ece

-- The organic food market in Britain is worth almost GBP1.6 billion annually

-- It grew by 30 per cent last year, compared to a 3 per cent growth for all UK food and drink sales

-- Two out of three British consumers now knowingly buy organic food

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4.Organic food helps revive fortunes of Europe's farmers
By Adam Mitchell in Brussels and Rachel Shields
The Independent, 14 June 2007
http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/article2656035.ece

The organic revolution is sweeping across Europe, with the area of land dedicated to environmentally-friendly, pesticide-free food production more than doubling in the last decade.

Organic farming now accounts for more than 4 per cent of agricultural land in the EU, more than double its 1998 share, according to a new report from its official statistics agency, Eurostat.

And organic land is likely to make greater inroads, as the consumer appetite shows no sign of slowing.

"Organic almost certainly will continue to grow and we think it's a good thing," Michael Mann, an EU agriculture spokesman said.

The growth is partly being driven by Europe's farmers, who are being undercut by produce imported from countries such as Brazil. For many farmers, organic foods are becoming a key way to reinvent their failing farms.

"Farmers are coming under growing pressure from low-cost producers abroad," Mr Mann said. "They have to be smart and think of increasing profit margins and organic is one way of doing that."

Conscious of this ballooning market, agriculture ministers from the 27 member states agreed this week on a compulsory logo, to be introduced from 2009, designed to reassure consumers that they are getting the genuine article.

The logo guarantees that at least 95 per cent of ingredients are completely free of chemicals - and imports will be subject to the same rule. But it also permits up to 0.9 per cent from genetically-modified organisms, a level that has angered green campaigners.

"It is a total cop-out by the European Union - setting a level of 0.9 per cent could result in the creeping GM contamination of organic food," said Ben Ayliffe, of Greenpeace. "It should be 0.1 per cent."

"Go into any supermarket and they are bursting with organic food, while GM foods are conspicuous by their absence. That's because consumers don't want them!" he added.

In recent years, European consumers have shown themselves willing to pay more for organic produce, reflecting an aversion to chemicals and a growing preference for natural farming techniques over the high-intensity production that has been blamed for crises such as BSE and foot-and-mouth disease.

Recognising this fact, Brussels will now provide higher levels of subsidy for organic farming, than that given to non organic fruit and vegetables.

The UK has been a leader in organic farming. In 2005, more than 600,000 hectares of the country's farmland were cultivated organically, putting it ahead of France, a country more than twice its size. Yet only 3.8 per cent of UK farmland was devoted to organic production, compared with 11 per cent in Austria. The Alpine nation has a reputation as a strong opponent of intensive and biotech farming, recently refusing to follow an EU ruling allowing a type of genetically-modified maize made by Monsanto.

While the Eurostat report primarily compared the 15 nations that joined the EU before 2004, it also pointed out that some of the biggest organic farms now are to be found in newcomers Slovakia and Czech Republic.

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