U.S. and EU Align Organic Standards

February 16, 2012

A major move boosts organic trade between the two territories.

The USDA and European Union announced on Wednesday that as of June 1, 2012, certified organic products from the United States or EU may be sold in either region without requiring extra certification. Aligning U.S. and EU standards for organic products is expected to create new jobs and boost trade between the two territories, while also reducing costs and paperwork needed with dual certification.

Formal letters of agreement were signed by USDA deputy secretary Kathleen Merrigan, European Commissioner for Agricultural and Rural Development Dacian Ciolos, and U.S. Trade Representative chief agricultural negotiator Isi Siddiqui at the BioFach World Organic Fair in Nuremberg, Germany.

The agreement covers produce, meat, cereal, and wine. Fish and shellfish are exempt and must still be certified under the importing country’s organic regulations before being sold.

“This partnership connects organic farmers and companies on both sides of the Atlantic with a wide range of new market opportunities,” said USDA’s Merrigan. “It is a win for the American economy and President Obama's jobs strategy.”

Organic regulations in the United States and EU are, however, not identical and are constantly changing. The two parties have recognized this and provided two exceptions in the agreement: EU organic meat treated with antibiotics cannot be sold in the United States and apples and pears produced under streptomycin for fire blight control cannot be sent to the EU.

USDA spokesman Matthew Herrick tells Nutritional Outlook that all other differences will be addressed by an “EU-U.S. Working Group”:

 

Both programs have a rigorous process for determining which materials are allowed in organic production and handling. The allowed materials lists are very similar but not identical…As part of the arrangement both programs will inform each other of any changes to the standards, including changes to allowed materials. Neither the EU nor the USDA is compelled to change their standards, or allowed materials, based on any changes to the standards.

 

The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) and an equivalent agency from the European Commission will share responsibilities of all trans-Atlantic oversight required under the agreement.

The USDA NOP has provided a handy Q&A page (download here) for any related concerns around labeling, international cooperation, and other matters.

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