The European Union and the United States announced at the BioFach World Organic Fair in Nuremberg in February that beginning June 1, 2012, organic products certified in Europe or in the United States may be sold as organic in either region. The deal is expected to offer increased market access and new export opportunities for both sides in fresh and packaged organics, lower certification costs and cut bureaucracy, and supporting jobs and businesses on a global scale.
The organics sector in the United States and European Union is valued at more than $50 billion combined of the $60 billion world organic market.
Formal letters creating this partnership were signed on 15 February in Nuremberg by Dacian Ciolos, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development; Kathleen Merrigan, U.S. Agriculture Deputy Secretary; and Ambassador Isi Siddiqui, U.S. Trade Representative Chief Agricultural Negotiator.
"This partnership connects organic farmers and companies on both sides of the Atlantic with a wide range of new market opportunities," said Ms Merrigan. "It is a win for the American economy and President Obama's jobs strategy. It will open new markets for American farmers and ranchers, create more opportunities for small businesses, and result in good jobs for Americans who package, ship, and market organic products."
"This agreement comes with a double added value. On the one hand, organic farmers and food producers will benefit from easier access, with less bureaucracy and less costs, to both the U.S. and the EU markets, strengthening the competitiveness of this sector, improve transparency on organic standards, and enhance consumers' confidence and recognition of our organic food and products," Mr Ciolos said.
Previously, growers and companies wanting to trade products on both sides of the Atlantic had to obtain separate certifications to two standards, which meant a double set of fees, inspections, and paperwork. This partnership eliminates significant barriers, especially for small and medium-sized organic producers. All products meeting the terms of the partnership can be traded and labeled as certified organic produce, meat, cereal, or wine.
Leading up to the historic announcement, both parties conducted thorough on-site audits to ensure that their programs' regulations, quality control measures, certification requirements, and labeling practices were compatible.
Although there are small differences between the U.S. and EU organic standards, both parties individually determined that their programs were equivalent except for the prohibition on the use of antibiotics. The USDA organic regulations prohibit the use of antibiotics except to control invasive bacterial infections (fire blight) in organic apple and pear orchards. The 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.