The EU organic movement is taking legal action to stop environmental labelling schemes that it argues are “misleading” to consumers and “unfair” to organic production.
In a case to be heard at the Paris Court of Justice, IFOAM Organics Europe and the French Association of IFOAM Members will specifically challenge the use of the ‘Eco-score’ system for the labelling of non-organic food, which they will argue is “unlawful” and “potentially misleading” to consumers.
While the two organic groups say they recognise the important role of labelling and information systems in supporting Europe’s ecological transition, they say they will challenge schemes they consider to be “unfair to organic production and deceptive for consumers”.
The challenge is directed at the use of the Eco-score by Ademe (the French Government agency for the ecological transition), Yuca, operator of the Yuka platform, Eco2 Initiative, operator of the Etiquettable platform, and the association Open Food Facts.
As well as contesting use off the term ‘eco’ with non-organic certified products, the organic groups will argue that the environmental rating methodology used by the schene, principally based on the Agribalyse database and the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of the Ademe, “favours…intensive and conventional production rather than a transition of production systems towards processes that respect the environment and biodiversity” and “does not consider all the objective dimensions that are essential for the development of a reliable environmental display of food products”.
“In an already difficult context of inflation for producers and consumers, attacks on organic farming, whether linked to the use of misleading terms or biased methodologies, must be stopped”
Commenting on the development, Jan Plagge, president of IFOAM Organics Europe, said: “Instead of fighting greenwashing, labelling schemes like the Eco-score contribute to it. They potentially mislead consumers about the organic or non-organic nature of the food products on which they are displayed, and favour products from intensive agriculture. The organic movement is concerned about the spread of such labelling schemes in several EU countries. It is more important than ever to better inform consumers about the environmental value of their food choices. But this must be done in compliance with the European legislation on organic farming as regards the terms used, and on the basis of methodologies that take into account all the externalities linked to different modes of agricultural production, particularly on biodiversity”.
Jacques Caplat, president of the French Association of IFOAM Members, said: “As the Court of Auditors stated in its recent report, the benefits of organic farming for the environment are clearly established in the scientific literature, and its development is the best way to achieve an agri-environmental transition of our food systems. In an already difficult context of inflation for producers and consumers, attacks on organic farming, whether linked to the use of misleading terms or biased methodologies, must be stopped. Terms that are only allowed on organic food products by EU regulations should not be used for other purposes, and certainly not on food products that are not very environmentally friendly as is currently the case with the Eco-score.”