Do you know what BIO stays for and what does the BIO sign of a product mean? Do you know if and when to prefer it?
Before answering these questions, it is important to specify that several terms are used to designate a biologically clean product, including: BIOLOGICAL, BIO and ORGANIC. All these labels on product packaging are used as synonyms, and there is no difference in terms of meaning. Almost all English-speaking countries, including UK and USA, prefer the name ORGANIC, and in Germany and most of Continental Europe is used the term BIO. The decision which term to use is usually taken by the manufacturer itself.
So what is BIO?
There are strict requirements in the European Union for the production and marketing of organic products regulated by Council Regulation (EC) No. 834/2007 replacing that of 2092/91. All bio registered farmers, livestock breeders, producers and traders of organic products meet high standards as follows:
- Organic farming – plants and plant products
The life of soil is the starting point for organic plant production. Since the use of soluble fertilisers is strictly limited – in particular mineral nitrogen fertilisers are not permitted – it is crucial to boost the natural fertility of the soil through the activity of soil organisms (bacteria, fungi, etc) which can transfer nutrients to the plants.
Organic farmers use multiannual crop rotation, including legumes and other green manure crops, and apply livestock manure or organic material in order to increase the fertility and the biological activity of the soil. In order to maintain or increase the soil organic matter, and enhance soil stability and soil biodiversity, appropriate cultivation practices, like tillage, are preferred. The use of biodynamic preparations is allowed.
To prevent the development of pests, diseases and weeds, organic farmers are not allowed to use synthetic pesticides or herbicides. This is the reason why the choice of resistant species and varieties is favoured. Multiannual crop rotation and appropriate cultivation techniques play a role in the protection of plants against pests, diseases and weeds. Organic farmers can also rely on thermal processes, the use of natural pest enemies, like ladybugs or trichogramma, an, in the case of an established threat to a crop, plant protection products authorised for use in organic production.
Organic production respects natural systems and cycles. Biological and mechanical production processes and land-related production should be used to achieve sustainability, without having recourse to genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
In organic farming, closed cycles using internal resources and inputs are preferred to open cycles based on external resources. If the latter are used, they should be organic materials from other organic farms, natural substances, materials obtained naturally, or mineral fertilisers with low solubility.
The collection of wild plants, growing naturally in natural areas, forests and agricultural areas is considered an organic production method provided that those areas have not, for a period of at least three years before the collection, received treatment with products other than those authorised for use in organic production. Additionally, the collection must not affect the stability of the natural habitat or the maintenance of the species in the collection area.
Exceptionally, however, synthetic resources and inputs may be permissible if there are no suitable alternatives. Such products, which must be scrutinised by the Commission and EU countries before authorisation, are listed in the annexes to the implementing regulation (Commission Regulation (EC) No. 889/2008).
- Organic farming – livestock
Organic livestock must be born and raised on organic farms. The number of livestock must be limited with a view to minimising overgrazing, poaching of soil, erosion, or pollution caused by animals or by the spreading of their manure. Additionally, in order to avoid environmental pollution, in particular of natural resources such as the soil and water, organic production of livestock should in principle provide for a close relationship between such production and the land. Farmers can also develop suitable multiannual rotation systems, so that animals do not graze on the same field every year.
As organic stock farming is a land-related activity animals should have, whenever possible, access to open air or grazing areas. Organic livestock must be kept separate from other livestock. However, grazing of common land by organic animals and of organic land by non-organic animals is permitted under certain restrictive conditions. Suffering, including mutilation, must be kept to a minimum during the entire life of the animal, including at the time of slaughter.
With regards to reproduction, natural methods must be used. Artificial insemination is however allowed. Hormones or similar substances are not permitted, unless as a form of veterinary therapeutic treatment in case of an individual animal. Cloning animals and or transferring embryos is also strictly forbidden.
The feed for livestock should primarily be obtained in the farm where the animals are kept or from farms in the same region. Farmers have to provide 100% organic feed to their cattle in order to market their products as organic or to use the EU logo.
Farmers must also use minimal feed additives and processing aids. In some cases of essential need or for a particular nutritional purpose however, it is permitted to use additives. Growth promoters and synthetic amino-acids are prohibited. Suckling mammals must be fed with natural, preferably maternal, milk.
Farmers can prevent diseases by selecting the appropriate breed and strain. Choosing the appropriate stocking density and adequate housing maintained in hygienic conditions will also avoid illnesses. Livestock that receives high quality feed and exercise are also inclined to live healthier lives. When the animals are ill, chemically synthesised allopathic veterinary medicinal products including antibiotics may be used where necessary and under strict conditions. This is only allowed when the use of phytotherapeutic, homeopathic and other products is inappropriate.
- Bio foods and food supplements
Organic processed products should be produced by the use of processing methods which guarantee that the organic integrity and vital qualities of the product are maintained through all stages of the production chain.
The preparation of processed organic food must be kept separate in time or space from non-organic food. Foods may be labelled “organic” only if at least 95% of their agricultural ingredients meet the necessary standards. In non-organic foods, any ingredients which meet organic standards can be listed as organic. To ensure credibility, the code number of the certifying organisation must be provided.
Organic production outlaws the use of genetically modified organisms and derived products.
Since 1 July 2010, producers of packaged organic food have been required under EU law to use the EU organic logo. However, this is not a binding requirement for organic foods from non-EU countries. Where the EU organic logo is used, the place where any farmed ingredients were produced must be indicated.
When to prefer BIO?
The idea of bio certification is to give guarantees for clean and environmentally friendly food, especially in large cities where traceability of food origin is difficult and personal contact with producers is often impossible. Basically bio-production aims at:
- sustainable cultivation systems;
- a variety of high-quality products;
- greater emphasis on environmental protection;
- more attention to biodiversity;
- higher standards of animal protection;
- consumer confidence;
- protecting consumer interests.
So, if you believe in these goals and would like to promote their imposition as a leading practice on a European and global scale, choose a BIO certified product. Even if you do not agree with all of the goals above, we would advise you to choose a bio product when you consume products that exist as genetically modified variants, if there is a risk coming from contaminated regions or you insist on specific quality parameters of the product.
Yet this doesn’t mean that only organic products are of high quality, clean and aim for a sparing treatment and conservation of the land. There are many natural products, home-grown plants and of course wild herbs, fruits and other natural plants that each one of us may prefer when we are sure about their origin and quality.
Bio certified products of Bionia, including cacao, maca, plant proteins and others can be found here PRODUCTS.
For detailed information of the EU Regulations visit https://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/organic/index_en