Meeting in Brussels on October 15, the members of the European Biostimulant Industry Council (EBIC) launched a Code of Conduct for Placing Plant Biostimulants on the Market to help increase clarity in the marketplace for users, producers and consumers alike. 18 of EBIC’s 37 members have already signed their written commitment to uphold the principles of the Code.
Plant biostimulants do not sit easily in the conventional thinking about crop production. Until now, substance-based classifications separated products into the realm of fertilizers or plant protection products. In recent years, agronomists have come to realize that various physiological systems in plants (and with their microbiomes) are connected in complex and previously unsuspected ways. These interactions are where plant biostimulants have their effect.
Because of the unique and emergent nature of the plant biostimulants sector, there is some confusion in the marketplace about the nature and impact of plant biostimulants, further compounded by the variation between national definitions and approaches to regulating plant biostimulants.
The EBIC Code of Conduct for Placing Plant Biostimulants on the Market promotes transparency and allows farmers to make informed choices about the additional benefits that biostimulants can bring to their crop management systems. The Code of Conduct was adopted unanimously by members at the June 2013 EBIC General Assembly after a year of preparatory work.
The EBIC Code of Conduct for Placing Plant Biostimulants on the Market was developed to communicate members’ commitment to operating with high ethical standards in doing business, notably:
• Respecting all applicable laws and regulations in any given market;
• Developing safe and effective products and providing scientific justification of these points;
• Working with authorities to ensure fair competition and consumer protection;
• Providing adequate information for end users to make informed decisions.
The EBIC Code of Conduct will be particularly valuable before EU-wide regulation of these products comes into effect as there are currently significant variations in how products are treated from one market to another.
Commitment to the Code of Conduct is mandatory for EBIC members. The implementation process is a journey, with compliance steps expected to converge towards the requirements of future EU regulation when it comes into effect. Each company will develop an individual compliance plan to reflect the unique adjustments it may need to make to converge towards the expected EU requirements, with deadlines set accordingly. Implementation and compliance will be incremental and iterative. Sharing of best practices among EBIC members will also be encouraged to foster peer learning. The emphasis is on continuous improvement and learning.
Concerns about non-compliance will be investigated by an Independent Advisory Body comprised of external stakeholders. Persistent non-compliance may result in expulsion from EBIC, but dialogue to jointly resolve the issue will be the preferred way of resolving any complaint.
EBIC will develop various guidelines to help members through the implementation period.
The EBIC Code of Conduct website will track members’ progress against their commitments, starting with a list of members who have confirmed their commitment to the Code of Conduct and noting when each has submitted its individual compliance plan.