Summary: European Union Agriculture Ministers succeeded on December 15 in moving nearer to an agreement on a draft Regulation on organic livestock production. The Austrian Minister chairing the Farm Council meeting, Wilhelm Molterer, reported wide support for a compromise solution that France, Spain and the United Kingdom would prefer to see made more stringent. The halfway house proposes setting requirements to ensure livestock farming is based on non-intensive farming methods and respects the well-being of animals and laying down conditions for food, the restricted use of veterinary products and chemicals and ruling out genetically-modified organisms. Applying to the rearing of sheep, cattle, goats, pigs, poultry and bee-keeping, the proposal is intended to include livestock production in the scope of Council Regulation 2092/91 on organic production of agricultural products and indications referring to these on agricultural products and foodstuffs. The Ministers instructed the Special Committee on Agriculture to work out a proposal on the basis of these guidelines so they can take a decision on the proposal during a forthcoming Council sitting.

GMOs. The Ministers see a need for genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) and products thereof to be banned from organic farming and want to be sure the prohibition is observed. In the light of the comments made during the Council debates, the Austrian Minister chairing the session suggested the sole exceptions should be veterinary medicinal products and certain types of fertilisers. Most Member States welcomed the progress made, whereas the European Commission intends to carry on championing its proposals in this area, which do not hold with any exemptions from the ban. Origin of livestock. With regards to the origin of livestock and the conversion of farmers in the case of livestock animals and animal products, the basic rule should be that livestock from organic farming should come from farms operating on organic farming principles. The Commission's idea is to have minimum conversion periods for animals before the animal products may be sold as organic products. France, Ireland, Sweden and the United Kingdom maintain that only animals born on organic farms may be regarded as organic products, without prejudice to the type of exemptions provided, for example in the case of replenishing livestock following a high level of mortality owing to diseases. The Member States noted that the Commission is...

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