In order to give consumers confidence when buying organic food, all products that are labelled organic in the EU fall under Council Regulation (EC) No. 834/2007.
As part of the regulation, only food that meets certain strict criteria can be labelled organic - these are:
at least 95% of the product's ingredients of agricultural origin have been organically produced;
the product complies with the rules of the official inspection scheme;
the product has come directly from the producer or preparer in a sealed package;
the product bears the name of the producer, the preparer or vendor and the name or code of the inspection body
Where there are issues of non-compliance, organic certification can be withdrawn as well as the right to market their products as organic.
Products from outside the EU that wish to be labelled organic must be certified by equivalent standards. And since July 2012, there is now an import regime whereby certification bodies beyond the EU are directly authorised and monitored by the EC and Member States. This is designed to improve monitoring and combat deception and fraud.
According to Fibl, the research institute for organic agriculture, in 2011 the organic market in Europe was €21.5billion, an increase of 9% compared with 2010. The largest markets for organic products are in Germany (€6.6 billion), France (€3.8 billion) and the UK (€1.9 billion). As a proportion of the total market share, the highest levels were reached in Denmark, Austria, and Switzerland.
As for land area, 10.6 million hectares of land in Europe are organic, representing 2.2% of the total agricultural land, and 220,000 producers. In 2011, there was an increase of 6% in EU land under organic production.
In 1991 Regulation (EEC) No. 2092/91 was introduced which allowed organic farming to be formally recognised by the 15 member states at the time. This was part of the wider reform to EU CAP.
This regulation has since been updated with the latest being Council Regulation (EC) No. 834/2007. This EU policy ensures harmonisation of standards across Member States and is designed to simplify the system for both producers and consumers.