Frequently asked questions on organic control
1. How can organic bees tell which plants are organic?
Organic bees need not be able to tell which plants are organic, because their flying area does not have to be organic. The sources of nectar and pollen within a range of three kilometres from the location of the bee farm shall consist primarily of wild plants, forest, organically cultivated plants and/or other crop plants, provided the treatments applied to the plants have minor environmental effects and do not affect the quality of the bee products. Other crop plants are also allowed within this range as long as they are not significant forage plants for bees. However, there must not be any genetically modified crop plants in the flying area of the bees. The hives must be kept at an adequate distance from sources that may cause contamination of beekeeping products, or have adverse effects to the health of the bees. Bee farms must be located at a distance of at least three kilometres from any sources of contamination that could affect the quality of beekeeping products. Such sources of contamination include sugar mills, roads with an average traffic volume of more than 6000 vehicles per day, landfill sites and waste incineration plants.
2. What is done to ensure that organic products remain organic when sold unpacked?
When handling organic products sold unpacked, it shall be ensured from the time they are received till they are put on display that they are not confused or accidentally replaced with corresponding regular products. It shall also be ensured that customers do not accidentally get the products confused.
3. Does wild origin automatically imply that products are organic?
The wild produce that we get from our forests and lakes are not automatically organic products. Only wild plants and plant parts picked controllably in inspected picking areas that have been entered into the control programme may be referred to as organic products.
Picked wild products, such as wild berries, mushrooms and herbs, are organic products only if they have been picked in specifically approved picking areas.
Products made from wild game and fish are not considered to represent organic production.
4. How are organic animals slaughtered? Do the techniques differ from normal slaughter?
Organic animals are slaughtered in the same slaughterhouses and using the same techniques as with non-organic animals. Slaughterhouses that accept organically produced animals are committed to complying with the conditions of Regulation 834/2007 of the European Council, i.e., ensuring the wellbeing of the animals as well as the traceability of the animals and the meat, and keeping organic meat separate from other meat in compliance with the conditions of the Regulation.
The slaughter techniques do not differ from normal slaughter. Council Regulation 834/2007 does not lay down any conditions for the slaughter.
5. How often is organic production inspected?
All farms and producers of organic foodstuffs are audited at least once a year, for compliance with organic production regulations.
6. Can the inspector be a supporter of regular production?
The inspector must carry out the audit and make observations in an entirely neutral manner. He or she does not need to support organic production.
7. Why do producers of organic products need documents to certify their activities?
It is impossible to tell the difference between organic and regular products by look, smell or taste. These documents enable a producer of organic products to prove that the input used (seeds, raw materials) really is organic. The markings the producer makes on the documents enable organic products to be traced at all stages of production, manufacture and distribution.
8. Whom can I turn to if I am unhappy with an inspector or audit?
Authorised inspectors have been used in organic control for more than fifteen years. The system is generally perceived as good and the quality of the audits is evaluated regularly. You can give your local ELY Centre or Evira feedback on the audit immediately after its completion, using the form issued to you by the inspector. You can also give feedback informally at any time.
9. How much does the entrepreneur pay for organic control?
There are no fixed fees for organic control. These fees are determined by the size of the farm on organically cultivated land, and by the time devoted to the audit with respect to other sectors of organic production. The current price list for control is available from Evira’s website.
10. Does Finnish bureaucracy increase the cost of organic control and thus the price of audits?
As part of the official measures taken by the authorities, audits comply with the neutrality requirements set for state administration. Fees for organic control in Finland are among the lowest in Europe.
11. What kind of consequences may follow for breaching the regulations governing organic production?
Although monetary fines are not applied to organic production, breaching the related regulations would result in the producer being banned from marketing the product as having been organically produced. Such consequences always result from the producer’s failure to comply with the requirements for organic production. Breaches of organic production regulations cause the product to lose its organic status, rendering the financial effect indirect. However, the product can still be sold as a regular product. In such a case, the financial loss would be the difference in price between a regular and an organically produced product. In general, a first, minor breach will result in a reminder. If the issue is not rectified after the reminder, the product will lose its organic status.
12. Can the inspector provide business advice during a control visit?
Evira and the ELY Centres, the authorities responsible for organic control, provide advice on the procedure. Evira also publishes production guidelines for organic production. Inspectors are not supposed to provide advice on running the farm: the audit should be independent and neutral. Instead, inspectors provide producers with advice on the audit and its requirements. Other advice is provided by information organisations or private consultants.