Thursday, February 16, 2012 4:50 AM PT
EU and US Harmonize Standards
for Organic Products

     (CN) - The United States and the European Union announced a plan Wednesday to help sellers of organic products enter markets on both sides of the Atlantic.
     The partnership, which will begin June 1, will merge organic certification standards and eliminate fees, inspections and paperwork. It is expected to significantly expand the world market for organic products and make it easier for small- and medium-sized companies to compete in the $52 billion marketplace.
     Prior to the deal, U.S. and EU companies looking to trade organic products had to meet two different standards to obtain organic certification. Producers also had to pay double fees and submit to all manner of inspections and paperwork. The United States and European Union are the two largest producers of organic products in the world.
     U.S. officials lauded the partnership as a potential job-creator.
     "This partnership connects organic farmers and companies on both sides of the Atlantic with a wide range of new market opportunities," U.S. Deputy Agriculture Secretary Merrigan said in a statement. "It is a win for the American economy and President Obama's jobs strategy. This partnership 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."
     Dacian Ciolos, the EU Commissioner responsible for agriculture and rural development, said the agreement will potentially increase demand for organic products.
     "This agreement comes with a double added value," Ciolos said in a statement. "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. In addition, it improves transparency on organic standards, and enhances consumers' confidence and recognition of our organic food and products."
     The only major differences between the existing U.S. and EU organic standards relates to antibiotic use. The Department of Agriculture does not allow organic producers to use antibiotics except to control blight and disease in apple and pear orchards. The EU's organic regulations allow antibiotics only to treat infected animals. The new dual standards will keep both bans.