Actors involved in the ecological transition have high expectations of information systems, like labels, related to the environmental impact of products and services. Information systems should speed up the ecological transition of companies, improve the offer for the consumer’s benefit and encourage environmental protection. In the food sector, organic movements support such indicators. However, they are opposed to the fact that they could be unfair or misleading to consumers.
Putting an end to misleading environmental labelling
To avoid unfair and misleading labels, IFOAM Organics Europe and the French Association of IFOAM Members have brought legal action before the Paris Court of Justice. The organic movements request the termination of the use of environmental labelling of food products that is considered unfair to organic production and deceptive for consumers.
IFOAM Organics Europe and the French Association of IFOAM Members (Association Française des Adhérents de l’IFOAM) are challenging ADEME (French agency for the ecological transition), the company YUCA, operator of the YUKA platform, the company ECO2 INITIATIVE, operator of the ETIQUETTABLE platform, and the Association OPEN FOOD FACTS, also and in particular as operator of an eponymous platform, using the “Eco-score” as an environmental display.
“Instead of fighting greenwashing, labelling schemes like the Eco-score contribute to it”
IFOAM Organics Europe and the French Association of IFOAM Members consider these uses as, in particular:
- Contrary to Article 30 of Regulation (EU) n°2018/848 (formerly Article 23 of Regulation (EC) n°834/2007) on organic production and labelling of organic products.
- Possibly constituting a misleading commercial practice to the detriment of consumers and the market.
In particular, and among other things, because of:
- Its format, insofar as (i) it unlawfully associates the diminutive “Eco” with non-organic certified products and (ii) it is considered likely to create confusion among consumers, not only in France but more widely in Europe, between products from conventional production and those from organic production.
- The rating methodology used, which is mainly and essentially based on the Agribalyse database and the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of the ADEME, like the PEF (Product Environmental Footprint) methodology recently questioned by the European Commission in the context of the draft Directive on green claims, that:
- Does not consider all the objective dimensions that are essential for the development of a reliable environmental display of food products.
- Favours, in the end, intensive and conventional production rather than a transition of production systems towards processes that respect the environment and biodiversity.
- And is not adapted to provide consumers with relevant information on the environmental impacts of food products.
“It is more important than ever to better inform consumers about the environmental value of their food choices”
In addition, two other legal actions have been initiated by IFOAM Organics Europe and the French Association of IFOAM Members:
- One, brought before the Director General of the INPI, to pursue the invalidity of the trademark (n°4618707) “ECO SCORE” registered at the request of ADEME.
- The other, brought before the EUIPO, to contribute as a third party to the examination of the application for registration as a European Union trademark (n°018750670) “ECO IMPACT” submitted by the FOUNDATION EARTH.
It will be up to the concerned bodies to decide. According to Jan Plagge, President of IFOAM Organics Europe: “Instead of fighting greenwashing, labelling schemes like the Eco-score contribute to it. They potentially mislead consumers about the organic or non-organic nature of the food products on which they are displayed, and favour products from intensive agriculture. The organic movement is concerned about the spread of such labelling schemes in several EU countries. It is more important than ever to better inform consumers about the environmental value of their food choices. But this must be done in compliance with the European legislation on organic farming as regards the terms used, and on the basis of methodologies that take into account all the externalities linked to different modes of agricultural production, particularly on biodiversity”.
Jacques Caplat, President of the French Association of IFOAM Members, said: “As the Court of Auditors stated in its recent report, the benefits of organic farming for the environment are clearly established in the scientific literature, and its development is the best way to achieve an agri-environmental transition of our food systems. In an already difficult context of inflation for producers and consumers, attacks on organic farming, whether linked to the use of misleading terms or biased methodologies, must be stopped. Terms that are only allowed on organic food products by EU regulations should not be used for other purposes, and certainly not on food products that are not very environmentally friendly as is currently the case with the Eco-score”.
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