July 15. 2024. 7:24

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Farmers warn against impact of EU’s anti-greenwashing law ahead of Council vote


Farmers worldwide have voiced concerns about new EU legislation against greenwashing, which they say penalises natural animal-derived fibers like wool and cashmere.

In an open letter sent to the EU Council on Thursday (June 13), more than 880 organisations representing thousands of farmers from Australia, Europe, India, Mongolia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the US criticised the law.

EU environment ministers are expected to adopt their position on the Green Claims Directive in Luxembourg on Monday (17 June) in order to start negotiations with the European Parliament, which voted on the rules in March 2023.

The draft legislation proposes using the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) to verify environmental claims in all products, but it opens the door to operators using alternative methodologies.

Farming representatives argue that PEF is “not adequate to assess the environmental performance of agricultural products” and will “enable greenwashing by fast fashion brands”.

“[PEF] unfairly favours synthetic, fossil fuel-derived materials over natural fibres, misrepresenting natural fibres as harmful to the environment and therefore posing a significant risk of injustice to farmers whose lives depend on the production of these natural fibres,” the letter said.

The farmers also pointed out that the Technical Secretariat for Apparel and Footwear, which develops PEF Category Rules for clothing and shoes, has set a “prohibitively high cost” for members to obtain voting rights and directly influence decision-making.

“Only large brands with ample funding can afford to be a voting member (…) None of the 26 members are farmers,” the letter said, noting that 14 voting members include eight with a “synthetic business model to protect”.

“This highlights the extreme disadvantage for farmers like us up against the well-funded and powerful fast fashion industry,” it adds further.

Sources from the PEF Apparel and Footwear told Euractiv that organisations including Alliance for European Flax Linen & Hemp and Cotton Inc, which also represents cotton farmers, are voting members and contributed “actively” to the decisions of the TS.

Not fit for agriculture and food

The legislative proposal unveiled by the European Commission in March 2023 acknowledged that PEF does not consider the “positive” impact of extensive livestock farming and other environmentally friendly practices.

The Commission’s proposal also noted that biodiversity and nature protection should be integrated before adopting PEF for agri-food.

IFOAM Organics, representing organic farmers in Europe, supports the directive’s goal of fighting greenwashing but admits that PEF is not suitable for agricultural and food products.

“PEF will tell you that an apple is more environmentally friendly than beef,” Silvia Schmidt, policy manager at IFOAM, told Euractiv. “But it won’t tell you that an apple grown in your backyard is greener than one flown in and treated with pesticides.”

While the organic sector is exempt from the Green Claims directive as it already complies with the EU organic regulation, private organic standards beyond the EU regulation would be subject to the new rules.

Schmidt noted that Parliament, and potentially the Council, supports using alternative methodologies to substantiate green claims, a stance welcomed by IFOAM.

Read more with Euractiv

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