IFOAM EU welcomes the agreement on a new Fertiliser Regulation

IFOAM EU welcomes the agreement on a new Fertilising Product Regulation (FPR), reached after almost two years of negotiations. Around half of the  fertilisers on the EU market are currently not covered by the existing legislation. The revised text, which will replace Regulation 2003/2003 from 2022, will include not only mineral fertilisers but also organic and waste-based fertilisers as well as biostimulants.The legislation is a central point of the European Commission’s Circular Economy Action Plan launched in December 2015.

The new Fertiliser Regulation offers  optional  harmonisation, meaning  that a fertiliser will have to meet the requirements of the new regulation in order to be CE marked (exported within the EU), but that Member States will still have the possibility to set specific rules for their internal market. Furthermore, mutual recognition of products will still possible. Some important points include:

The limit of cadmium in phosphate rock will  be limited three years from entry into force of the regulation to 60 mg/kg. After seven years of entry into force of the regulation a review  of  the limit values for cadmium content in phosphate fertilisers, with a view to assessing the  feasibility of reducing these limit values, needs to be performed on basis of the latest technological and scientific developments.

As of the  moment of compliance with all the requirements of the Regulation, struvite, biochar and ash-based products will be included in the new Regulation. In an EGTOP(1) report from 2016, struvite was assessed and found to be in line with the organic farming  principles and therefore,the subsequent addition onto Annex I of the Organic Regulation (EC) No 889/2008 should be considered in a timely manner. Since rock phosphate is a non-renewable source, the recovery of nutrients from organic materials already in circulation should become a higher priority, to reduce the dependency of farms on imported nutrients and to reduce pressures on the environment and health.

Plant biostimulants are substances that‘ stimulate plant nutrition processes independently of the product’s nutrient content’ and they will also be regulated under  the new fertiliser Regulation. IFOAM EU generally welcomes this step but regrets that the definition of biostimulants is limited to those that enhance the “tolerance to abiotic stress”, as in practice it is not always possible to distinguish sharply between biotic and abiotic   stress factors. The registration procedure for biostimulants should  not  repeat  the  situation of the  plant  protection  legislation  (EC)  No  1107/2009 where the authorisation process is designed for “synthetic” molecules and present many difficulties for naturally occurring substances which have an existing natural background exposure. Furthermore, the process should be proportionate to the potential risks of such natural substances and should consider existing traditional use.

IFOAM EU regrets that  a fertilising product under the new regulation may contain only certain microorganisms (azotobacter spp, mycorrhizal  fungi, rhizobium spp, azospirillum spp). There are many other species and their consortia which are of interest to farmers and which are already used at the national level. Furthermore production processes other than drying or freeze-drying, such as fermentation, are also used,but are ignored by the wording of the new Regulation. Finally,  although  use  of  animal  manure  and  farm-produced  compost  not  labelled  with  the  CE mark remains outside the scope of the EU fertiliser legislation, it is important to ensure that the recycling of  farm  residues will not behindered  by  disproportionate  administrative  burdens  and  quality controls. As  the  availability  of  the  right  amount  and right  quality of  nutrients is an important topic for the future of organic  farming, and as closed nutrient cycles are a corner stone of organic farming practices,the  organic movement will  continue  working on  the  topic  of  nutrient  recycling.  More information on our current work done in the  course of the Horizon  2020 RELACS project can be found here.

1 The  Expert  Group  for  Technical  Advice  on  Organic  Production  (EGTOP)  is  a  group  of  independent  expertswhich  delivers technical  recommendations  to  the  EU  Commission.  Following  specific  mandates  from  the  EU  Commission,  the  EGTOP produces  reports  with  opinions  whether  given  substances  or  techniques  are  in  line  with  the  principles  oforganic production.  Thoserecommendations are not  binding but the Commission must consider them when  updating  the organic regulations, mainly the Annexes of Reg. (EC) No 889/2008.

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