Last week, Dacian Cellos, EU commissioner for agriculture & rural development, withdrew proposals for new regulations on organic wine. Current rules only cover the grapes used in wine and the Commission planned to extend these to cover the process of wine making itself.
Despite several months of discussion, attempts to find a credible compromise failed as negotiators could not agree on a limit for sulphites. The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) had proposed a limit that would be reduced at a later date.
But this was not acceptable to the Commission which feared that such a two-step compromise would dilute organic standards. Cellos said: “I am not willing to compromise on organic standards because it sends the wrong signal to consumers on the importance we attach to quality policy.”
Thomas Dosch, vice president of the organic lobby IFOAM, had a different interpretation. He argued that a two step reduction process “would have still guaranteed rules in line with organic principles.”
The UK-based Soil Association backed the IFOAM position. Head of standards Chris Atkinson told BeverageDaily.com: “We know that IFOAM has tried to make constructive proposals and we are disappointed that the Commissioner does not appear to have been able to accept these.”
Although the Commission said it hoped progress at an industry and research level would mean the proposals could be reconsidered later, Atkinson said it was disappointing that no indication was given as to how consensus could be reached.
“The passage of time alone is not likely to bring agreement any nearer and we are concerned that the Commission will not facilitate or assist any further attempts to gain agreement.”
This leaves wine as something of an anomaly in terms of organic regulation as all other processed foods and drinks must comply with standards at all stages of their production. Atkinson said this situation could cause confusion among wine drinkers and undermine confidence in organic standards.