The cultivation and production of organic food in the EU is regulated by the EU organic regulation (explained in this blog post about the EU Organic Label). To trade products out of the EU, country specific documentation is generally necessary to prove that every requirement made by the EU organic regulation meet with the other country's standard.
Nevertheless the trade of organic food between the EU and the USA goes as an exception with the mutual recognition of their official organic standards since February 2012.
Indeed, since most of the criteria are shared between the National Organic Program (NOP) and the EU Organic Regulation, the EU and the USA both accept the trade of their organic food, simplifying the administration and the trade relationships between the EU and the USA. However, even if no extra certification is necessary to trade both ways organic products in the USA, more and more EU producers are also getting the NOP certification for marketing reasons or not to be limited by the equivalence agreement.
We will now learn more about the National Organic Program before going deeper into the differences between those two organic programs.
What is the NOP?
The National Organic Program is the American official sustainability program for food. Developed by the US Department of Agriculture, this program sets the requirements for cultivation, processing and trade of organic food in the USA. More than 33 000 products are currently certified “organic” by the 80 certifications bodies present in the USA.
The NOP sets several rules such as:
- An organic production and preparation of animal and vegetal farm products
- A transparent product labelling, identification and market information
- Certifications and documents requirements
The certification process is similar to the european one with the control of the farms and companies by an independent certification body accredited by the USDA. The certificate is valid for one year.
Conditions for the trade of EU organic products in the USA
EU products certified according to the EU Regulation EC No 834/2007 may sell their products in the USA using the “organic” label, when the following conditions are met:
- The product must be produced in the EU or at least prepared and packaged in the EU
- No use of antibiotics on animals
- An import certificate must be attached to the EU certified product. This document must be delivered by an accredited certifying body.
Conditions for the trade of US organic products in the EU
Product from the USA and NOP certified may be sold as “organic” in the EU when the following conditions are met:
- The product must be produced in the USA or at least prepared and packaged in the USA
- No use of antibiotics on animals
- An import certificate must be attached to the NOP certified product. This document must be delivered by an accredited certifying body.
- For the trade of Rosaceae (or rose family) such as apple and pears, the use of antibiotics must be explicitly and demonstrably excluded
Exceptions to the agreement
Even if most of the official organic regulations are in most cases similar, there are also several important differences between the guidelines. To protect the national threshold for the consumer, some products are excluded from the agreement.
Apple and pears (rose family) from the USA:The NOP authorizes an antibiotic treatment against fire blight, while any antibiotic treatment is forbidden by the EU organic regulation.
Meat product from the EU:The EU organic regulation authorizes a limited use of antibiotics in case of illness (up to two times), while the use of antibiotics on animals is strictly prohibited by the NOP.
Aquaculture products from the USA:Since the NOP has no guideline regarding sustainable aquaculture, any product coming from american aquaculture are excluded from the agreement.
Wine from EU:The EU organic regulation authorizes a limited use of sulfites, while it is completely forbidden by the NOP
Use of GMOs:The use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are strictly prohibited by the guidelines of the EU organic regulation.
- Official website of the US Department of Agriculture
- Press release of the USDA about the equivalency agreement
- Content of the NOP program
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