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Europeans demand stricter controls on organic products

During the Week of Organic Agriculture, some significant data about the sector has been revealed. For example, that 44% of the production is exported, which generates a positive balance of 295 million Euro, or that 32% of organic businesses make shipments abroad. The 20% increase in the number of industrial or processing facilities since 2011 is also noteworthy and confirms a trend that has been on-going for the past decade. Only the acreage has been reduced, by around 12% in all of Spain, down to 1.6 million hectares.

Extremadura planted 74,294 hectares in 2012, which meant an almost 17% drop compared to 2011. This brought it down to the fourth position in Spain, surpassed by Catalonia and still well behind Andalusia and Castile-La Mancha. It accounts for 4.6% of the country's total, with a total of 3,231 operators.

Organic products are a consolidated alternative, both nutritionally and agriculturally, compatible with the rest, but never exempt from debate. One of the greatest advantages for consumers is that they are harvested after they reach their optimal maturing level, which is not normally the case with intensive horticulture. In return, costs are higher and the commercialisation channels more complex. With some products, like wine, organic grapes are purchased almost at the same price as conventional ones.

This agricultural model, based, among other factors, in the non-use of synthetic products, does not escape certain contradictions that are perceived by consumers. On the one hand, and from a strictly productive point of view, there are some products which are authorised for the treatment of these crops, such as copper oxychloride, sulphur, copper sulphate or Potassium soap, among others, although certainly much fewer than with intensive production. In fact, the latest revision from the Commission prohibited numerous pesticides, although with regard to consumption, these food items are not legally bound to show in the label that they can contain up to 5% of non-organic products.

These are reasonable minimums, and without them, the viability of organic production would be very low and its commercialisation much more limited. Even with these exceptions, some organic growers carry out fraudulent practices to maintain the levels of profitability. Although without risks for human health, they entail a loss in credibility for the sector which is damaging for those who enforce the rules.

In this context, the European Commission has conducted a massive survey regarding organic production, in preparation for the legislative proposal expected to be presented by early 2014. From the results of this project follows that 60% of Europeans demand more controls and tests on these products to ensure that they do not contain illegal residues, even if this entails an increase in prices. Spain is among the countries demanding this more firmly.


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