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April 21, 2008

Launch of EU organic logo delayed beyond 2009

The launch of the European Commission's organic logo, scheduled for 2009, has been delayed following complaints it was too similar to a symbol used by German supermarket Aldi.
The news may signal problems for organic manufacturers, especially those who have started to prepare for the logo to come in at the previous anticipated start-date of next year.

The logo was first suggested by the EC in 2007, and was designed for mandatory use on products that are 95 per cent or more organic and free of genetically modified organisms (GMO).

However, Germany-based retailer Aldirecently contacted the commission to raise concerns over the similarities between the new green logo and its own symbol, said Michael Mann, EU spokesperson for Agriculture and Rural Development. The European council of ministers has now been asked to delay the launch until 2010, he added.

Mann remains confident that the delay will not have a negative effect on the food industry, as "voluntary labels are in place;" however, other players in the organic world are not so optimistic.

Richard Jacobs, chief executive of UK Organic Farmers & Growers (OR&G) said the logo had clearly been withdrawn in a confused fashion. The OR&G had told several processors to change their packaging, some of whom have already started to work on new print labels, he said.

"And the commission seemed to have not done its homework in this area," Jacobs said. "How did the commission miss the similarity to a logo from Aldi, one of the biggest food retailers in Europe? And why did Aldi wait so long to complain?"

The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) has also voiced its concern on its website, stating that the postponement will cause "serious problems", as many labels will now have to be changed again. "This is absolutely not acceptable for the market," said Francis Blake, president of the IFOAM EU Group.

Jacobs also stated that the OR&G has been disappointed with the logo from the start, as orginal plans were for it to feature the word 'bio,' more associated with washing powder than organic foods by English speakers.

What's more, products packaged in the EU will be able to carry this logo, meaning consumers will not be able to distinguish between organic food from within the bloc and products that come from further away, he added.

Nevertheless, despite concerns over the state of the European organic market, the sector continues to grow, according Eurostat. In 2005 around six million hectares were either farmed organically or were being converted to organic production, an increase of more than 2 per cent on 2004, the analysts said.

Over the same period, the number of organc operators grew by more than six per cent, Eurostat added.

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