Organic Labeling & Organic Certification - What does it all mean?
By Elizabeth Evers
Organic certification serves to regulate, as well as to facilitate, the sale of organic products. Having an organic label assures product quality and prevents misrepresentation to consumers – it also helps to promote organic produce as it becomes more and more mainstream. In the countries where the largest amount of organic produce is consumed, standards are set at government level and awarded by accredited third-party organic certifiers. In these countries - the US, EU countries and Japan - the commercial use of the word ‘organic’ is restricted legally and may only be used on products from certified organic producers.
The largest market for organic produce is within the US, where annual sales figures have now reached $24.6 billion (2008) – accounting for nearly half of all global organic sales. There, organic food and organic textile products are divided into three distinct categories, each with a different label: ‘100% Organic’, ‘Organic’ (containing at least 95% organic ingredients) or ‘made with organic ingredients’ (containing a minimum at least 70%). Only those in the first two product categories can carry the official National Organic Program’s USDA Organic Seal.
In Europe, EU member states follow the EU-Eco-regulation (1992) and this forms the basis of national standards alongside individual government stipulations. Non-EU countries, have widely adopted these certification regulations for organic food in order to export goods to the region. The European Union also has its own organic logo. To qualify products must contain at least 95% organically produced ingredients. The use of the EU logo is voluntary, but will become compulsory from 1 July 2010 for pre-packaged food produced within the EU. Use of the logo will continue to be voluntary on imported products.
There are currently hundreds of organic certifying bodies and member organisations all over the world. Internationally-recognized certification bodies, however, are usually members of IFOAM (the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) which is an umbrella organisation of more than 750 members in 108 countries. IFOAM runs an ‘Organic Guarantee System’ which allows organic certifiers to become "IFOAM Accredited". Other large global membership organisations include the Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) and Ecocert.
In Asia, the Japanese Agricultural Standard (JAS) is run by Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Certification to this important standard can be awarded by international organizations. In China, the Organic Food Development Center (OFDC) (http://www.ofdc.org.cn/english/iso/1.asp) provides an IFOAM Accredited organic certification service which meets the National Organic Product Standard of China as well as OFDC Organic Certification Standard.
Elizabeth Evers is the News Editor of ekobai.com, the world's only online Business to Business directory for certified companies. Here she explains how organic labeling works and outlines the leading global organic standards