German organic seal - how meaningful is it?
Nowadays, everyone is talking about organic in the truest sense of the word. Almost 85,000 products from just over 5,600 companies are currently registered for the use of the well-known, six-sided organic seal. This is visually characterized by its hexagonal shape, the black "Bio" lettering and the green hook. Since the EU legislation for organic farming was passed in 2010, the German organic seal has been optional for manufacturers. Although the intention of both seals is certainly commendable, there has always been criticism of their validity since they came into existence. Why is there a German organic seal and what does it really say about the products labeled with it?
German organic seal - what does it say?
Each of you surely knows the well-known, hexagonal logo with the green tick. This is prominently displayed on numerous foods and gives the consumer the feeling of making an ecologically sensitive purchase. A state, German organic seal has existed since 2001 and is a registered trademark. Especially in view of the current trend towards sustainability and environmental awareness, products with the German organic seal are very popular.
It is therefore somewhat surprising that the prestigious sticker is based on the 1993 EC Organic Regulation. In concrete terms, this means that the respective product comes from controlled organic cultivation in accordance with the said regulation. So far so good. Since the 1990s, however, a lot has happened in terms of organic farming. Therefore, the question arises as to whether the German organic seal is still a contemporary indicator for really environmentally friendly products.
With the decision of the EU legislation for organic farming in 2010, the European organic seal is mandatory for all packaged organic products within the EU. Since then, an additional German organic seal has been voluntary for manufacturers. Both symbols and their award are based on the fulfillment of certain minimum criteria of organic farming. These are as follows:
- No chemical fertilizers and preservatives
- Animal Welfare
- Only a certain number of animals per square meter
- Organic animal feed
- renunciation of genetic engineering
- Use of antibiotics for medical purposes only
- Maximum 49 additives in processed foods
All in all, manufacturers have to meet 95% of the above criteria in order to be able to label their products as “organic” and use the EU organic seal. To ensure this, these producers are checked at least once a year by an official inspection body.
That is why the German organic seal has been criticized
A common point of criticism of the German organic seal is the control visits just mentioned. It is true that rumors that these would not actually take place could be refuted today. The fact is, however, that in many cases the controls are announced. According to critics, this gives farmers an unfair advantage and the opportunity to take appropriate precautions. At least on laying hen farms, there is often a second annual inspection visit, which then takes place without prior notice.
Another point of criticism is the interpretation of species-appropriate animal husbandry. Both slaughterhouse transports of up to 24 hours and so-called slatted floors in fattening pig husbandry are tolerated and provided with the organic seal. Overall, the inspectors are often accused of merely "working off" the necessary criteria - without paying much attention to other potential abuses. This applies in particular to optical criteria of the animals such as torn feathers, wounds or restricted movement. If all the criteria explained above are met, opponents of the seal often overlook such blemishes.
Even compared to the requirements of cultivation associations such as Demeter, Bioland or Naturland, the standards of the EU organic seal seem rather relaxed. For example, according to the EU directive, more hens per building, pigs per hectare and laying hens per square meter are permitted. In addition, the organic seal allows far more additives than the organic farming associations.
German organic seal - our conclusion
Overall, the German organic seal has its right to exist, despite some justified criticism. Even if these are older guidelines, the criteria show clear limits, for example, to the use of chemicals in arable farming. We are also less critical of the fact that the German seal is only an additional option to the EU organic seal. After all, the striking logo with the green arrow has a high recognition value and brand character.
Our products carry both the German and the EU organic seal. We are aware that the underlying criteria are not the strictest. These correspond to the minimum standards that we have for our products. We believe that every manufacturer has a duty not to rely on the validity of the seal and to form their own opinion about the quality of the products used.
For example, we work specifically with responsible farmers and buy some of our ingredients in the highest Demeter quality. We also carefully select the best foods and use no sugar or additives. For comparison: According to the specifications of the German organic seal, 49 additives are permitted. What could be a kind of "loophole" for other manufacturers, we leave unused and are 100% clean. So organic is not always healthy, but for us it is!
At the same time, we also believe in the adaptability of the guidelines. In view of the current orientation towards sustainability and environmental friendliness, we consider a new edition of the EU guidelines for organic farming to be quite realistic.