U.S. and EU agree on ‘game changing' organic trade partnership

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

NUREMBERG, Germany, Feb. 15, 2012-The European Union and the United States announced today that beginning June 1, organic products certified in Europe or in the United States may be sold as organic in either region.

 Formal letters creating this partnership were signed 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. The signing took place at the BioFach World Organic Fair, the largest trade show for organic products in the world.

 Under terms of the agreement, the EU will recognize the USDA National Organic Program as equivalent to the EU Organic Program. That will allow products produced and certified as meeting USDA NOP standards to be marketed as organic in the EU, according to the agency. In return U.S. authorities will allow European products certified by the EU Organic Program to be marketed as organic in the U.S. The organics sector in the US and EU is valued at more than $50 billion, combined.

 Together we can feed the Bees
“This monumental agreement will further create jobs in the already growing and healthy U.S. organic sector, spark additional market growth, and be mutually beneficial to farmers both in the United States and European Union as well as to consumers who choose organic products,” said Christine Bushway, Executive Director and CEO of the U.S.-based Organic Trade Association (OTA). “Equivalence with the EU will be an historic game changer,” she added.
Taking part at the historic organic equivalence signing were
(from left) European Commisioner Dacian Ciolo, U.S. Deputy
Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan and Ambassador
Isi Siddiqui, U.S. Trade Representative's Chief Agriculture Negotiator

The agreement will allow access to each other's markets provided (1) antibiotics were not administered to animals for products entering the United States, and (2) antibiotics were not used to control fire blight in apples and pears for products entering the European Union. To facilitate trade, the EU and United States have agreed to work together to promote electronic certification of import transaction certificates.

The arrangement is limited to organic products of U.S. or EU origin produced, processed or packaged within these jurisdictions. Additionally, both programs have agreed to exchange information on animal welfare issues, and on methods to avoid contamination of organic products from genetically modified organisms. General country labeling requirements must still be met. 

"This is a significant step in strengthening our bilateral trade relations," explained Ambassador Isi Siddiqui. "I am confident that this arrangement will facilitate and boost agriculture trade between the European Union and the United States - and lead to more jobs in this important sector for both America and Europe."

 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. 


For additional details on this agreement:

http://www.ams.usda.gov/NOPTradeEuropeanUnion or http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/organic/home_en


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