Industry challenges “loaded language” of EU organic survey

Criticism is building within the organic industry about an online survey set up by the European Commission to test the views of consumers, businesses and interest groups on organic food and farming issues.

The Commission says the multiple-choice survey forms an important part of the current review of the EU Organic Regulation.

But some organic groups say the questionnaire employs “loaded language”” and are questioning the intentions behind the exercise.

The IFOAM EU Group, which represents more than 160 organisations across Europe, has highlighted the consultation to its members as a matter of urgency.

The Group points out that some of the questions posed are too technical for consumers and those with limited technical knowledge to answer in a meaningful way, yet at the same time don’t offer enough scope for expert responses to be given in useful detail. It calls some of the questions “tendentious” and describes the language used in the survey as “loaded”. In its March newsletter it comments: “IFOAM EU always welcomes transparency and stakeholder consultation by European Institutions, however (we) regret that the way some questions are written is misleading and that the questionnaire is inadequately formulated to satisfactorily address the diverse groups and to allow for an interpretation of the results adequately for the very wide range of experiences, knowledge and understanding of the respondents. Furthermore, the questionnaire could give the misleading impression that organic faming has difficulties with pesticide and/or GMO contamination.”

UK organic certifier Organic Farmers & Growers is the latest organisation to condemn the questionnaire.

OF&G chief executive, Richard Jacobs, said: “This questionnaire has appeared somewhat out of the blue and many of us are left wondering precisely what the European Commission is trying to achieve with it. It is mostly a multiple-choice exercise, with very little scope for meaningful and helpful feedback from those who know what they are talking about. Our chief concern is that such multiple-choice options can be interpreted very widely, to suit any number of agendas.

“Our chief concern is that such multiple-choice options can be interpreted very widely, to suit any number of agendas”

“However, unfortunately, we all recognise that we are unlikely to get the EU to withdraw or improve it as this stage, so the best thing we can do is provide advice, collectively, on what we think are the most useful answers for the health and benefit of the organic sector and organic consumers as a whole. We are grateful to IFOAM EU for very quickly doing this work, which we support and will be circulating to our licensees and many friends and associates, encouraging them to respond.”

• The consultation is open until April 10, 2013 and can be found at with the suggested responses from IFOAM EU available at