Most of the fruit sold in EU supermarkets carries certification labels issued by private bodies, such as the Rainforest Alliance. These sustainability certifications are considered 'voluntary' for producers, although in practice are 'mandatory', as retailers require them for trading within the EU. Faced with the risk of over-certification of the market and the consequent greenwashing, there are many voices demanding that the European Commission take measures to guarantee consumer rights and prevent possible fraud among certifiers.
The Portuguese MEP Francisco Guerreiro of the Group of the Greens, aware of this challenge faced by producers and consumers, has asked the Commission "if it is considering advancing the guidelines of the Commission Communication 2010 with binding measures to provide a regulatory framework to prevent overcertification and greenwashing of agri-food product labeling".
In the words of the MEP, the 2010 Communication is insufficient and does not provide a regulatory framework that indicates the criteria that must be met for a product to be considered sustainable. Certifications are sold and regulated by certification agencies, private actors, companies or self-managed non-governmental organizations. Faced with the risk of overloading the production of agricultural products with unverified environmental certifications, the MEP argues that European legislation on this issue is necessary.
This is not the first time that the lack of regulation of certification schemes has been questioned before the Commission. The Spanish socialist MEP, Monica Silvana, already asked the Commission last March about the development of a mandatory system of Shared Responsibility to ensure the distribution of costs of these certifications along the value chain.
In an ecosystem where European supermarkets impose lower prices, but increasingly demand higher standards and sustainability requirements, the costs and investments related to these requirements are mostly covered by the producers themselves. In Ecuador, for example, banana production and its export to the European market is essential for the employment of more than 250,000 families. Banana farmers, 95% of whom are small and medium-sized producers, are unable to bear all the costs involved in certification, while facing pressure from retailers to lower their prices.
For more information:
Juan José Pons