Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) has criticised the decision to recognise US organic food standards as equivalent to those in the EU.
As it stood, said the animal welfare lobby group, US organic standards on animal welfare were far lower than they were in the EU.
The recently published agreement, which was signed by Dacian Ciolos, European Commissioner for EU Agriculture and Rural Development, and Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan of the US Department of Agriculture, states: “Although there were small differences between US and EU organic standards, both parties individually determined that their programmes were equivalent, except for the prohibition on the use of antibiotics.”
Many in the food industry on both sides of the Atlantic have supported the agreement as opening up a host of new trade avenues and offering considerable potential for producers and processors.
Wide of the mark
However, CIWF chief executive Philip Lymbery said: “If the EU feels that this is the time to negotiate an equivalency deal with the US, it is wide of the mark. I simply cannot believe that the EU has accepted the US livestock standards as equivalent.”
Not only would US standards be considered non-organic in some cases in Europe, some elements were legally questionable on animal welfare grounds, said CIWF. US standards lacked detailed welfare provision and, for example, did not specify stocking density for any US species.
Standards “clearly much lower”
In addition to the “huge animal welfare concerns”, said CIWF, there was the risk that the agreement would under-cut EU organic farmers in their home markets. EU recognition of US animal welfare standards as equivalent to those of the EU when they were “clearly much lower” meant EU farmers could be undermined by US products and prices, it said.
“I am questioning the EU’s judgement as this new agreement is also terribly misleading to consumers,” said Lymbery. “Consumers buy organic animal produce safe in the knowledge that the welfare has been of a high standard. If the US organic products will now be deemed to be equivalent, what will be next? It could be the tip of a very nasty iceberg.”