The “Level” Organic Playing Field

Articles
June 24, 2009

The “Level” Organic Playing Field

On June 17th, the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Kathleen Merrigan, announced the merge or “equivalency agreement” between the organic food standards of The United States and Canada. This is a “first-of-its-kind” agreement, as described by Merrigan; currently organic standards are country specific, or in the case of the European Union, union specific. USDA certified organic products need to go through a different and rigorous testing process, and adhere to a different set of standards, in order to be considered organic in Europe. Canada is estimated to be the largest export food market for U.S. organic products and is currently the United States’ largest trade partner. This is an exciting step for all things organic as the potential growth opportunities are enormous for both countries. In the U.S. alone, organic food sales have quintupled in the past 10 years, reaching $24.6 billion in 2008. The Canadian market is significantly smaller, but none the less significant; an estimated $2.1 billion to $2.6 billion is spent on organic food, about 80 percent of which is imported, of which 75% is estimated to be from the U.S. The equivalency agreement applies to processors and producers of organic goods certified under the USDA’s National Organic Program, these products will not have to be re-certified to the Canada Organic Product Regulation (COPR) standards in order to be considered organic in Canada. Likewise, Canadian organic products certified to COPR standards may be sold or labeled in the United States as organic. Both the USDA Organic seal and the Canada Organic Biologique logo may be used on certified products from both countries. But the question begs to be asked, what if any are the differences between the two certifications; and how will consumers be aware of them?

On June 17th, the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Kathleen Merrigan, announced the merge or “equivalency agreement” between the organic food standards of The United States and Canada. This is a “first-of-its-kind” agreement, as described by Merrigan; currently organic standards are country specific, or in the case of the European Union, union specific. USDA certified organic products need to go through a different and rigorous testing process, and adhere to a different set of standards, in order to be considered organic in Europe.

Canada is estimated to be the largest export food market for U.S. organic products and is currently the United States’ largest trade partner. This is an exciting step for all things organic as the potential growth opportunities are enormous for both countries. In the U.S. alone, organic food sales have quintupled in the past 10 years, reaching $24.6 billion in 2008. The Canadian market is significantly smaller, but none the less significant; an estimated $2.1 billion to $2.6 billion is spent on organic food, about 80 percent of which is imported, of which 75% is estimated to be from the U.S.

The equivalency agreement applies to processors and producers of organic goods certified under the USDA’s National Organic Program, these products will not have to be re-certified to the Canada Organic Product Regulation (COPR) standards in order to be considered organic in Canada. Likewise, Canadian organic products certified to COPR standards may be sold or labeled in the United States as organic. Both the USDA Organic seal and the Canada Organic Biologique logo may be used on certified products from both countries. But the question begs to be asked, what if any are the differences between the two certifications; and how will consumers be aware of them?

We at SupermarketGuru.com could not agree with this concept more; this is truly the first step in purifying and enhancing our food supply system and standards. However, for this concept to benefit consumers it must become global and with a single set of organic standards that all countries adhere to.