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“The HEV label misleads consumers and must be prohibited”

HEV label attacked by organic organizations before French Council of State

Some French organizations, federations and unions of the organic sector, including FNAB and Synabio, have decided to attack the HEV label before the Council of State. Here is their statement:

“Just as the French government just marginally modified the standards for the High Environmental Value (HEV) agricultural label, a group of consumer, environmental and health organizations, as well as farmers and organic businesses*, also filed a complaint with the Council of State to denounce the deception of consumers, which has been going on for more than 10 years, and to put an end to the greenwashing maintained by this label.” 

The HEV label has been contrary to French law since 2011
Since 2011, the French law has stated that the HEV label must reward production methods that are particularly respectful of the environment. Studies conducted by the French Office of Biodiversity and IDDRI have shown, however, that the content of the HEV label was not more demanding than the average French agricultural practices.

In 2022, the standard undertaken by the government was revised and finally adopted in November, with the stated aim of supposedly making the label more demanding, but this has not improved the situation. The latest report of the French Office of Biodiversity in 2022 confirms that the changes to the standard have not improved the environmental performance of the label. For example, respecting the basic environmental rules of the Common Agricultural Policy is not required, and even worse, the use of chemical inputs such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides particularly harmful to the environment and human health remains authorized! In other words, foods produced with substances that disrupt the endocrine system, that may be carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic, and products that pollute water or have deleterious effects on biodiversity remain authorized. This is not compatible with a label that claims to be of High Environmental Value. 

The law must put an end to this fraud against consumers
The legal analysis requested by the organizations shows that the HEV label is a fraud against consumers. The promise of environmental excellence implied by the name of the label and required by law is still not fulfilled by the new standard.

“The HEV label never had the real purpose of high environmental performance. If it was the case, the standard would have been much more ambitious. It could at least be leading farmers to think about their practices and hopefully change them. The problem is that although increasingly present on products, the label is misleading consumers and citizens who, due to a lack of awareness, see in it an agricultural model with a positive impact on the environment. Our goal is to demonstrate that, unfortunately, it is far from being the case and it is not acceptable to allow such fraud to persist,” according to the organizations.

There is a model called organic agriculture which needs improvement of course, but has one of the highest environmental performances. Any support from the State to deceptive commercial allegations that blur the perception of consumers must stop immediately, according to the organizations. A survey conducted by Interfel in 2022 about organic fruit and vegetables shows that 55% of the participants believe that the HEV label is subject to strict specifications, 48% think that HEV fruit and vegetables undergo strict controls and 44% trust HEV fruit and vegetables completely. These figures prove that consumers are fooled by the label itself, which must stop immediately.”

* UFC-Que Choisir, Générations Futures, Agir Pour l’Environnement, Fédération Nationale d’Agriculture Biologique (FNAB) , Syndicat National des entreprises de l’agroalimentaire bio (Synabio), Bio consom’acteurs, Réseau Environnement Santé.

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