Farm certification schemes for sustainable agriculture: specifications for origin and quality of the final products

by | Sep 5, 2022 | European stakeholders

Author: Blanca Casares (AEIDL)

Research4Committees (AGRI, CULT, PECH, REGI & TRAN) of the European Parliament, published the study analyses on how farm certification schemes (CS) can help the EU reach its sustainability objectives in the farming sector and be instrumental in the implementation and monitoring of the related Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) during the upcoming programming period.

Certification schemes, for agricultural products and foodstuffs, provide assurance that certain characteristics or attributes of the product, or its production method or system, have been observed. This research project has identified a total of 198 CS at EU level and in the main third countries. A total of 9 profiles have been determined based on thematic areas covered by the schemes:

  1. “Good agricultural practices”: Haute Valeur Environnementale (HVE), Integrowana Produkcja, IP Sigill, Leaf, Sistema di Qualità Nazionale di Produzione Integrata per le Produzioni Agricole (SQNPI);
  2. Origin and quality of the final products”: geographical indications (GIs): protected designations of origin (PDOs) and protected geographical indications (PGIs);
  3. “Traceability and safety”: no CS from this type has been selected for detailed analysis;
  4. “Animal welfare and health”: Beter Leven, Initiative Tierwohl;
  5. “Organic +”: Naturland;
  6. “Climate”: Label Bas-Carbone, Wineries for Climate Protection (WfCP);
  7. “Multi-purpose”: Bord Bia Quality Mark, Certified Sustainable Beef Framework (CSBF), Equalitas, Global G.A.P. and Integrated Farm Assurance (IFA);
  8. “Non-GMO”
  9. “Fairtrade”      

Geographical indications (GIs, including PDOs and PGIs) explicitly link the origin to specific attributes of the final product, with over 3,000 names registered at EU level.

According to the study, environment, climate and animal welfare are not primary objectives of GIs. However, these are growing concerns from producers, consumers and public bodies and the study identified some changes. For instance:

  • Evolution of the specifications of some GIs to add environmental requirements,
  • Public initiative to integrate pre-defined agro-environmental requirements (for instance in the wine sector in France).

According to the study the contribution of PDO/PGI to EU policies is:

  • High or direct contribution to: farmer’s position value chain and human health
  • Limited or indirect contribution to: climate change mitigation and adaptation; sustainable management of resources; protection of biodiversity, habitats and landscape, ecosystem services; animal welfare; antimicrobial resistance and plant health

Most of the producer groups surveyed in the context of the EU evaluation of GIs and Traditional speciality guaranteed (TSGs) declared that their product specifications take into consideration environmental aspects (64%).

Main environmental aspects are related to landscape, use of old breeds and plant varieties (biodiversity), mitigation of the impact on water quality, limitation of the use of water, fostering extensive practices, mitigation of the impact on biodiversity, fostering organic production. A few producer groups also indicated requirements with an impact on energy and greenhouse gas emissions.

Based on the full analysis, the study recommends:

  1. To encourage the use of the relevant certifications’ schemes within the CAP national strategic plans to achieve the EU sustainability objectives.
  2. To use certification schemes to implement the CAP and achieve CAP objectives; this is particularly relevant for SMRs, GAECs, eco-schemes and AECMs. Practically, this could be supported by the development of tools such as:
  3. To use some certification schemes in the risk analysis for CAP controls (to be assessed on a case-by-case basis).