US-EU Organic Equivalency Arrangement
On February 15, 2012, the European Union and the United States announced that beginning June 1st, 2012, their respective countries’ certified organic products can be represented as such across the Atlantic. Formal letters creating the Arrangement were signed at the BioFach World Organic Fair in Nuremberg, Germany, by Dacian Cioloş, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development; Kathleen Merrigan, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture; and Isi Siddiqui, U.S. Trade Representative Chief Agricultural Negotiator. BioFach is the largest trade show for organic products in the world. In addition, the European Commission amended EC 1235/2008, to include the United States as an equivalent third country program.
This Arrangement focuses on the importance of agricultural production using organic methods in both the U.S. and EU markets. Among its aims are the reduced administrative burdens and new possibilities for trade on both sides. Previously, operations that wanted to trade products on both sides of the Atlantic had to obtain separate certifications to both standards, which meant a second set of fees, inspections, and paperwork. To prepare for the Arrangement, both parties conducted thorough on-site audits to ensure that their programs’ regulations, quality control measures, certification requirements, and labeling practices were compatible. The United States and the European Union will continue to have regular discussions and will review each other’s programs periodically to verify that the terms of the Arrangement are being met.
Under the Arrangement, the EU recognizes the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) as equivalent to the EU Organic Program (under applicable EU regulations) and allows U.S. organic products to be marketed as “organic” in the EU using the EU organic logo under two conditions:
1) Tetracycline and streptomycin were not used to control fire blight in apples and pears.
2) An import certificate is issued by an NOP accredited certifying agent attesting to compliance with the terms of the arrangement.
The Arrangement is limited to organic products of U.S. origin, either produced within the U.S. or where the final processing or packaging occurs within the United States
Likewise, the United States allows European products produced and handled under the EU Organic Program to be marketed as “organic” in the United States using the USDA organic logo under two conditions:
1) Antibiotics were not administered to animals; and
2) An import certificate is issued by an EU approved certifying body attesting to compliance with the terms of the Arrangement.
In addition to these restrictions, all products traded under the Arrangement must be accompanied by an organic import certificate. This document states the production location, identify the organization that certified the organic product, verify that prohibited substances and methods were not used, certify that the terms of the Arrangement were met, and allow traded products to be traced.
The inclusion of the United States in the EU’s list of third countries whose production systems and control measures are recognized as equivalent ended on June 30, 2015. Given that the United States continues to satisfy the conditions set out in the EU’s framework legislation, Commission Implementing Regulation 2015/931, published on June 18, 2015, prolonged the inclusion for an unspecified period.
Under the Arrangement, the EU and United States also agreed to begin work on a series of technical cooperation initiatives to promote organic production and to establish common practices for the assessment and recognition of the organics programs of third countries. The Parties agreed to exchange information on animal welfare, including living conditions and organic livestock health care concerns, antibiotic-free dairy and other animal production issues, monitoring conversion practices and parallel production, and control and approval processes in third countries. The Parties will also exchange information on methods to avoid adventitious presence of genetically engineered plants and work together on future activities to enhance the integrity of organic production systems.
Further details, including the letters exchanged in the Arrangement and certificate information can be found on the USDA, National Organic Program website: http://www.ams.usda.gov/NOPTradeEuropeanUnion.
The Organic Trade Association
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for the organic industry in North America. OTA’s mission is to promote and protect organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public, and the economy. OTA envisions organic products becoming a significant part of everyday life, enhancing people’s lives and the environment.
OTA represents businesses across the organic supply chain and addresses all things organic, including food, fiber/textiles, personal care products, and new sectors as they develop. Over sixty percent of OTA trade members are small businesses. Detailed information on the US-EU Organic Equivalency Arrangement is available on OTA’s website.
- Plenty of Oppurtunities for U.S. Organic Products in the EU Market (GAIN report Feb. 2015)
- Export Opportunities for U.S. Organics in the EU Market (GAIN Report, 02/11/2013 – pdf)
- The EU-U.S. Organic Equivalence Cooperation – Report on New Opportunities for U.S. Organic Sales to the EU (GAIN Report, 02/15/12) (pdf)
- Copy of Signed Agreement (Signed 02/15/12) (pdf)
- European Union and United States Agree to Historic New Partnership on Organic Trade Press Release (USDA, 02/15/12)
- U.S. Organic Industry Praises U.S.-EU Partnership in Organic Trade (USDA, 02/15/12)
- Additional Information from USDA Agricultural Marketing Service
- Frequently Asked Questions – European Commission (pdf)