The terms “organic” and “eco” are protected at European level. Products described in that way must comply as a minimum with the criteria of the European Organic Production Regulation.
EU organic label
Organic products are some of the most controlled foodstuffs there are. Only products whose organic production and processing are controlled can be labelled “organic”. The term “organic” designates natural stock farming, farming without pesticides and artificial fertilisers, and the absence of GMO.
Since 2010 all pre-packaged foods produced in an environmentally friendly manner in an EU Member State and which meet the criteria of the European Regulation have displayed the European organic label in the form of a leaf. The European minimum requirements set the minimum content of organically grown ingredients at 95%.
The introduction of the European label has not reduced the diversity of other eco-labels. National organic labels, which often go much further, such as Bio-LËTZEBUERG, the German organic label (hexagonal) or the French organic farming label (Agriculture biologique française, abbreviated to AB), may be used alongside the European organic label. The same goes for the logos of organic farming associations (such as Demeter, Bioland and Naturland) and private commercial brands. However, the Demeter logo clearly stands out, since it goes far beyond the European minimum requirements.
An overview of the characteristics of organic farming is available here.
Bio-LËTZEBUERG identifies the organic products made exclusively by the members of the association "Vereenegung fir Biolandwirtschaft Lëtzebuerg a.s.b.l." (Biovereenegung). Users of this organic label, recognised at a national level, work in accordance with the European Organic Production Regulation, beyond that they also commit to respecting the following three additional criteria:
- Organic farming across the whole farm is mandatory. For vines, a limited transition period rule applies.
- The use of conventional manure and slurry, residues of fermentation from biogas plants, meat meal, blood meal and bone meal and compost from household waste is prohibited. However, the purchase of cow, sheep, goat and horse manure from conventional farms is authorised. It does, though, have to be composted before being spread.
- Feeding ruminants exclusively on silage (fodder preserved by fermentation) is not possible. In summer, animals must have access to green fodder.
A single product must come entirely from farms that are members of Bio Lëtzebuerg, and mixed products must contain at least 55% ingredients from certified members in order to carry the Bio-LËTZEBUERG label.
Users of the Bio-LËTZEBUERG label are inspected by one of the institutes authorised and certified by the labelling commission. Currently, Bio-Lëtzebuerg has more than 80 members (46 breeders and growers, 14 fruit and vegetable growers, 11 beekeepers, 6 winegrowers and 6 processing and marketing companies). Together, they work on a total agricultural area of 3.350 hectares.
As an eco-pioneer, the association Demeter has been the leader in terms of quality in organics since 1924. With their biodynamic farming, Demeter’s farmers and producers go much further than the European Organic Production Regulation. And this benefits not only the food but also the environment.
Demeter's essential assets:
- Mandatory stock farming for farming operations or, at the very least, a cooperation with other Demeter farms for the exchange of fodder and manure.
- Two-thirds of the organic animal fodder must be Demeter, rising to 80% for ruminants. At least 50% of the fodder must come from the farm itself or from cooperation with a farm operation.
- Dehorning of cattle is prohibited.
- The use of biodynamic preparations made from herbs, minerals and cow manure.
- The use of their own varieties, and breeding work for cereals, vegetables and poultry. When it comes to cereals, only fixed varieties may be used: hybrids are banned.
- Only the strict minimum in terms of additives and adjuvants is permitted during processing. Iodisation, nitrated salt and natural flavours are prohibited. Only flavour extracts are permitted. The European Organic Production Regulation still permits some additives that are strictly prohibited for Demeter products.
Every year, in addition to the organic inspection, all Demeter farm operations undergo scrupulous verification of their compliance with the Demeter directives by the independent State-accredited institutes.
The Bioland brand has been registered as a trademark since 1978. With more than 8,700 producer farms - farmers, gardeners, beekeepers and winegrowers - and more than 1,400 partners in production and trade - for example bakeries, dairies, butchers and restaurants - Bioland is the leading organic farming association in Germany and South Tyrol. Bioland's most important goal is to "promote and further develop organic farming".
The farming methods of Bioland farms are based on a circular economy in which, for example, animal manure from the farms' own livestock is used to return nutrients to the soil. The label's ecological standards go beyond the legally prescribed criteria for the EU organic label, such as for:
- Organic farming across the whole farm is mandatory.
- The amount of fertiliser is limited.
- Less poultry and pigs per hectare of land
- Grazing for dairy cattle
- Laying hens have permanent outdoor access.
- 100 % organic fodder, at least 50 % of fodder from own farm or regional cooperation
Along with Demeter and Bioland, Naturland is one of the most important certifiers of organic products.
The Naturland label was founded in 1982 by scientists, farmers and consumers with the aim of promoting organic agriculture worldwide. With more than 65,000 certified producers in 58 countries, Naturland is one of the largest organic farming associations worldwide.
The label sets high ecological standards for the cultivation and processing of food and takes social aspects into account, such as the exclusion of child labour or respect for human rights.
Naturland's criteria also go beyond the minimum standards of the EU organic label, such as:
- Organic farming across the whole farm is mandatory.
- Limitation of the amount of fertiliser
- Less poultry and pigs per hectare
- Pasture for dairy cattle
- permanent outdoor access for laying hens
- At least 50 per cent of fodder from own farm
fair & associative
Contrary to popular belief, “organic” does not always mean “fair”. Whether it be for the European organic label or the majority of the national labels, social standards are not recorded on the list of criteria. With its products labelled Fairtrade and fair&associative, NATURATA offers food whose production and marketing are fair.
In summer 2017 the fair&associative label was created. In the meantime more than 60 products in the BIOG brand bear this specially registered logo. Companies wishing to display this label on their products must fulfil two criteria:
- they must take part in discussions on the current state of the market, during which representatives from the whole value chain, i.e. the farmers, the processors, the wholesalers and the retailers and, ideally, the customers, organise a round table in order to establish the most inclusive commercial relationships;
- they are subject to regular assessment, by an independent institution, of whether their objective serves the public good.