Last week saw the European Commission publish a report, highlighting the growth of the EU’s organic sector. I think, however, that the specific figures for this part of the world may well be out of kilter with these general trends. And this has nothing to do with the general economic downturn of recent times and the fact that the premium market returns for organic produce have declined. Rather the real challenge impeding the growth or organic farming in Ireland is the different interpretation on what actually constitutes ‘organic farm practices’ across the various EU member states.

For example, organic farming in Ireland is an all or nothing process with land expected to be farmed to an acceptable standard on an ongoing basis. But, contrast this with the situation that prevails in a number of EU Member States where a farmer can nominate specific fields ‘organic’ on an annual basis, irrespective of the land’s previous cropping history. This more flexible approach to organic farming highlights the total hypocrisy which exists in regard to the development of the sector at the very heart of Europe.

More galling is the fact that many of the countries that allow for the adoption of a much less rigorous approach to organic farming have absolutely no hesitation in calling for a blanket ban approach to the adoption of GMO technologies within Europe. This ‘head in the sand’ attitude has served to restrict feed imports from North and South America, a state of affairs which is preventing local pig and livestock farmers from accessing the cheaper cereal and protein inputs that are available internationally at the present time.

Surely the EU should be all about applying its regulations in a consistent manner? A quick analysis of the way in which the CAP and associated policies are implemented show this is not the case at all. And, for the most part, it is local farmers who are paying the price for this.