spread of organic ideas started in the 1920s and 1930s with the
publication of books by the pioneers from Europe and the USA. Those
publications expounded more an ideology and a way of life than technical
guidelines for producing food organically.
time for standards came later, preceded by a period on which the
organic producers started to organize their first associations and
in several countries of Europe, the US and Australia developed a
voluntary system of inspection.
first organic label was probably Demeter, the biodynamic label.
After that, the British Soil Association published its first standards
modern, more structured system of inspections, in situ as known
nowadays, started in the 1970s. During this period the development
of organic certification in some states of the US, mainly in California,
was particularly relevant. These initiatives by existing groups
of organic farmers led to the development certification bodies such
as the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). By the 1980s
other European organizations, such as KRAV in Sweden and Skal in
the Netherlands, had started to develop their standards and certification
organizations founded during those decades were usually and still
are dedicated to several other activities related to organic production
in addition to certification.
and large, governmental legislation started in the 1980s; California
and Oregon, with state legislation dating back to the 1970s, being
the notable exceptions. This development was in response to governments
recognizing the emerging importance of organic markets and wanting
to organize and regulate that kind of production. In Europe, 3 countries
- Denmark, France and Spain - had national legislation in place
within that decade.
significant step was the implementation of the EU Regulation 2092/91,
which took place in Europe in 1991. This Regulation, which covered
all EU Member States, meant that more countries than ever before,
including some that had shown little interest in organic production
became governed by an organic regulation. 13 years later the Regulation
is still in force. Throughout that time a total of 25 amendments
and new standards, proposed by the Committee that represents all
the EU Member States and approved by the EU Commission have been
incorporated, so that now it has grown into a much more extensive
document than the original one in 1991.
2000 Japan published its Organic Regulation (JAS) and the final
regulation for organic food in the US, the National Organic Program
(NOP), came into force in October 2002. Several other countries
throughout the world now have a national legislation that regulates
their organic production, and many others are putting the necessary
resources into developing legislation.
recently, countries from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Eastern
Europe did not have an internal market for organic produce. Any
certified organic production in these countries was to supply the
international markets of the richer countries of Europe, North America,
Japan and Australia. These organic enterprises were managed according
to the standards of the importing countries, and were mainly certified
by certification bodies from the countries where the Organic Movement
things are changing, especially in Latin America and Eastern Europe.
In Latin America the situation has developed from the first national
organic legislation being implemented in Argentina in 1992, to the
current scenario, where several countries have recently published,
are drafting, or are discussing the drafting of national standards.
At the same time some accredited local certification bodies are
also emerging. In Eastern Europe several countries joined the EU
on 1 May 2004, and big developments are expected regarding their
organic production and legislation.
the international and global level, the role played by IFOAM should
be recognized. Founded as in International Federation for Organic
Agriculture Movements in 1972, it has published basic organic standards
since 1980. These standards, continuously updated and enlarged,
are used as a reference, a common point and a guideline for the
development of many new and different organic standards throughout
the world. The IFOAM Basic Standards (IBS) have thus provided the
basis of standards and regulations in regions of the world with
very different climates, cultures and agriculture practices. Parallel
to this project, was the development of Codex Alimentarius (or food
code), which was drawn up under the joint FAO/WHO food standards
programme. The purpose of the Codex Alimentarius was to act as a
guideline on the production, processing, labeling and marketing
of organically produced food. They were finally adopted in 1999.
of Standards in Organic Trade
The current net of organic standards available worldwide has a fundamental
influence over the market of organic products. Nowadays private
standards belonging to individual certification bodies, are very
common, but every decade governmental standards are becoming more
relevant. Generally speaking, an organic organization is allowed
to keep their own standards if they are in compliance with their
country’s national regulations. In the case of the EU Member
countries private standards must be compliant with the EU Regulation
2092/91. An exception is the US, where since the implementation
of the USDA programme (NOP), private organic bodies in the country
are not allowed to use their own standards or any others that differ
to the NOP, except for meeting exportation requirements.
happens in practice is that the main importing countries are the
ones that impose their rules in the international organic market.
Therefore, the world’s three dominant regulations, the EU
Regulation, NOP in the USA and JAS in Japan, have the largest number
of organic producers that must conform to them. In addition, the
stronger private standards have an added influence on many producers
within both their own countries and importing countries.
related to the standards that organic producers must conform to
is another important marketing element; that of the seal or logo
used. As with the situation with standards, there are governmental
seals and private ones. In France, the most recognizable and influential
symbol is the national government seal called AB. In Germany the
national Biosiegel is well accepted. However, in many other European
countries it is a private symbol that is the most influential and
in many cases is what consumers associate with the word ‘organic’
when looking at a food label.
different standards at national or private level and the different
seals enrich the concept of ‘organic’ with their differences,
but sometimes represent a barrier for trade. The organic sector
is continuously searching for greater harmonization. The importance
of this issue was illustrated at the IFOAM Conference on ‘International
Harmonization and Equivalence in Organic Agriculture’, held
in Nuremberg, Germany in February 2002. There was much discussion
and it was clear that all sectors involved need to make every effort
if any degree of harmonization is to be achieved.