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US and EU strike deal on organic certification standards

By Elaine Watson , 15-Feb-2012
Last updated the 15-Feb-2012 at 21:26 GMT

US and EU officials have struck a deal that will allow products certified as organic in Europe or the US to be sold as organic in both regions.

Currently, firms have to wait for separate certifications, meaning double fees, inspections and paperwork.

The Office of the US Trade Representative said the partnership agreement will come into effect on June 1.

US deputy agriculture secretary Kathleen Merrigan said: “Organic farmers and food producers will benefit from easier access, with less bureaucracy and less costs, to both the US and the EU markets.”

Antibiotics

Although there are differences between US and EU organic standards, the parties determined that their programs were broadly equivalent except for the prohibition on the use of antibiotics.

The US Department of Agriculture organic regulations prohibit the use of antibiotics except to control invasive bacterial infections such as fire blight in organic apples and pears, while EU organic regulations allow antibiotics only to treat infected animals.

For all products traded under this partnership, certifying agents must verify that antibiotics were not used for any reason.

Organic export certificate

All products traded under the new partnership must be shipped with an organic export certificate. This will show the production location, identify the organization that certified the organic product, verify that prohibited substances and methods weren't used, certify that the terms of the partnership were met, and allow traded products to be tracked.

Jake Lewin, chief certification officer, California Certified Organic Farmers, said: “I cannot wait to tell this to our farming and processing clients who have been managing multiple certification programs for years.

“These dedicated individuals can now turn their attention to managing their operations and producing more organic goods instead of chasing paperwork for overlapping standards.”