As globalisation spreads, pressure increases from low cost products from overseas and consumer demands evolve, Europe's most potent weapon is 'quality'. The Green Paper looks at the range of standards, quality and certification programmes and labelling schemes currently operating in the EU – including geographical indications, organic farming, and private and regional food quality certification schemes – and asks what could be done better to exploit the strengths of EU farming and better inform consumers about the products on offer. The paper asks stakeholders to give their views on how effective these measures are in delivering guarantees and communicating the qualities of the products, and to suggest improvements. The consultation period will run until the end of 2008. A Communication will be prepared next year based on the results, which could lead to legislative proposals at a later stage.
The Green Paper is divided into three sections:
- baseline production requirements and marketing standards;
- specific EU quality schemes such as geographical indications, traditional specialities and organic farming;
- and food quality certification schemes.
"In an increasingly competitive world, European farmers need to play to their major strength – quality," said Mariann Fischer Boel, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. "To do this, EU farmers have to provide products with the qualities consumers want, guarantee these qualities and, perhaps most importantly, communicate them effectively. We have a whole range of policy instruments and specific quality schemes in the EU. I want to know from the people involved whether these measures work properly and what more, if anything, needs to be done."
Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou said: "I am very pleased to be associated with the launching of this Green paper on food quality which will give the opportunity to our citizens to provide their input on what they expect from us so to be assured on the quality of their food. The Green Paper will also give us input on how we can build further on communicating food quality which we have already achieved through our existing legislation which ensures that EU food is produced with very high standards of food safety, including animal health and welfare or our hygiene regulations."