Written Answers. - Organic Farming.

Frances Fitzgerald

Question:

416 Ms Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development the reason it is necessary for the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development to be the supervisory body in relation to organic food products; and the plans in this regard. [20434/00]

My Department is the competent authority under the EU regulations governing the organic sector and is required to set up an inspection system operated by one or more designated inspection authorities and/or by approved inspection bodies. Standards for organic crop produce had been fixed since 1991 by EU Regulation 2092/91, and on 24 August 2000 this regulation was supplemented by Regulation 1804/99 which set standards for organic livestock produce. Under Regulation 2092/91 my Department had approved three private bodies to inspect and certify organic crop produce. These bodies, in a private capacity, had also been certifying organic livestock produce to standards that they themselves had set. When the livestock sector was brought within the ambit of Regulation 2092/91 in August, however, my Department as the competent authority was obliged to make arrangements for its inspection.

The Agri-Food 2010 report had included a recommendation that a credible regulatory system be put in place for the organic sector and that the existing confusion between competing inspection bodies be ended. In response, I undertook to streamline the inspection arrangements. My objective is to ensure that all organic farmers and processors have ready access to efficient, transparent and consistent arrangements for inspection and certification. My Department has recently put proposals to the three private bodies, the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association, Organic Trust and Demeter Standards Limited, for a unified inspection and certification system which will achieve this objective while allowing the three bodies to continue to operate their own private arrangements, where their own members are concerned, as heretofore. I understand that the three bodies are currently considering these proposals and I am hopeful for a positive response.

Frances Fitzgerald

Question:

417 Ms Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development the reason Ireland is lowering the standards in relation to organic food; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20435/00]

Standards for organic crop produce had been fixed since 1991 by EU Regulation 2092/91, and on 24 August 2000 this regulation was supplemented by Regulation 1804/99 which set standards for organic livestock produce. Previously there had been no national standards for organic livestock produce. Under Regulation 2092/91 my Department, which is the competent authority under the regulation, had approved three private bodies to inspect and certify organic crop produce. These bodies, in a private capacity, had also been certifying organic livestock produce to standards that they themselves had set.

When Regulation 2092/91 was extended to the livestock sector on 24 August, my Department had proposed to adopt standards for such produce in accordance with the Regulation. My information is that a number of other member states will certify produce which meets those standards as organic, and my Department had to bear in mind the fact that such produce could not legally be excluded from the Irish market.

However, the standards in the regulation did not include all the requirements recommended by the three private bodies, the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association, Organic Trust and Demeter Standards Limited. Following further discussions on this issue with interested parties including the three private organic bodies and other stakeholders in the organic sector, my Department has indicated that it is prepared to set certain additional requirements and that others may be considered subsequently by the Organic Development Committee which I am establishing in accordance with the recommendation of the Agri-Food 2010 Committee. I am confident that the standards now being set for the organic sector will provide every reassurance to retailers and consumers as to the quality and integrity of Irish organic produce, without compromising the competitiveness of Irish organic producers. My objective is to ensure the continuing growth of the organic sector as part of mainstream farming in Ireland.

David Stanton

Question:

418 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development the decision taken by his Department in relation to standards pertaining to organic food; the number of meetings that have taken place between him or officials of his Department in this regard; the organisations involved; his further plans for the development of the organic food sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20469/00]

Standards for organic crop produce had been fixed since 1991 by EU Regulation 2092/91, and on 24 August 2000 this regulation was supplemented by Regulation 1804/99 which set standards for organic livestock produce. Previously there had been no national standards for organic livestock produce. Under Regulation 2092/91 my Department, which is the competent authority under the regulation, had approved three private bodies to inspect and certify organic crop produce. These bodies, in a private capacity, had also been certifying organic livestock produce to standards that they themselves had set.

When Regulation 2092/91 was extended to the livestock sector on 24 August, my Department had proposed to adopt standards for such produce in accordance with the Regulation. My information is that a number of other member states will certify produce which meets those standards as organic, and my Department had to bear in mind the fact that such produce could not legally be excluded from the Irish market.

However the standards in the regulation did not include all the requirements recommended by the three private bodies, the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association, Organic Trust and Demeter Standards Limited. Following further discussions on this issue with interested parties including the three private organic bodies and other stakeholders in the organic sector, my Department has indicated that it is prepared to set certain additional requirements and that others may be considered subsequently by the organic development committee which I am establishing in accordance with the recommendation of the Agri-Food 2010 Committee. I am confident that the standards now being set for the organic sector will provide every reassurance to retailers and consumers as to the quality and integrity of Irish organic produce, without compromising the competitiveness of Irish organic producers. My objective is to ensure the continuing growth of the organic sector as part of mainstream farming in Ireland.
The organic development committee which I am in the course of establishing will have representatives of the widest interests in the organic sector including those involved in production, marketing, distribution and retailing, as well as the areas of research, training, advice and regulation. Invitations have issued to the relevant parties to nominate representatives. I have asked the committee to recommend a coherent development strategy to achieve expansion in production, processing and marketing of Irish organic produce and to secure an increased share of the growing national and export markets; and to consider the broad actions necessary for the most advantageous long-term future development of the Irish organic sector while protecting its integrity.

David Stanton

Question:

419 Mr. Stanton asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Rural Development the research which is ongoing in relation to the organic sectors; the resources which have been committed to this sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [20470/00]

Teagasc is currently conducting a research programme on organic farming. The Teagasc Research Centre at Oakpark is responsible for research on organic grain production, and research into systems for the production of organic cereals is taking place at the organic unit in Johnstown Castle. Organic crops of winter barley, spring barley and triticale have been sown at Johnstown Castle with a view to establishing the best systems of production. An organic milk production unit also exists at Johnstown Castle.

Teagasc is currently embarking upon further work on organic production at its Athenry facility to serve as a demonstration farm with beef, sheep and cereals. The centre will undertake an advisory role, and will hold open days and courses on organic farming. The necessary staffing and other resources required to carry out this research have been put in place at Oakpark, Johnstown Castle and Athenry.