Food Law News - EU - 2002

Commission Press Release (IP/02/780), 30 May 2002

ORGANIC - Infringement proceedings against Spain on organic farming rules

The European Commission has decided to formally request Spain to change certain rules and commercial practices concerning organic farming. Some products that do not come from organic farming are marketed in Spain using the term "bio" and this is not in conformity with EU rules on organic farming. The request is in the form of a reasoned opinion, the second stage of the infringement procedure provided for in article 226 of the EC Treaty. If there is no satisfactory response to the reasoned opinion within two months, the Commission may refer the case to the Court of Justice.

The Commission received information according to which products that do not come from organic farming are marketed in Spain under a number of trademarks all of which include the term "bio". A few examples of this practice provided to the Commission are: Bio Danone, Bio Calcio-Nestlé, Biosan. The Commission received also the text of Decreto Foral 212/2000 of 12 June 2000 (Autonomous Community of Navarre) which authorises the term "bio" for milk products for which use of the term is customary and continuous. Furthermore, in May 2001 Royal Decree 506/2001 was adopted. It is clear from its preamble that use of the term "bio" is permitted to designate products that do not derive from organic farming.

On 24 July 2001 a letter of formal notice was served on the Spanish Government. In this letter the Commission took the view that Royal Decree 506/2001 and Decreto Foral 212/2000 were in breach of the Regulation on organic production of agricultural products (Council Regulation (EEC) N° 2092/91 of 24 June 1991) and the Directive on the approximation of laws relating to the labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs (Directive 2000/13/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 March 2000).

The Spanish authorities replied on 5 October 2001 to the letter of formal notice. In substance they maintained the position that the legislation and commercial practices in question do not contravene European Union law.

The Commission has now decided to send a reasoned opinion under Article 226 of the EC Treaty to the Spanish authorities. The reasoned opinion requests the Spanish authorities to bring their legislation and practices into conformity with EU law. The Spanish authorities have two months to reply to the reasoned opinion from the date of receipt.

To go to main Food Law Index page,
click here.