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New ‘special relationship’ across the pond for organics?

Date Published: 23/02/2012

The agreement between the EU and the US to recognise each other’s organic standards, as revealed in just the last week, really is a pretty big deal.

The EU and US organic logos
The EU and US organic logos

To those outside the organic sector, its probably just another dry trade agreement story. But for those who have a product to sell, in some cases it could be the difference between growth and stagnation.

The US is the biggest developed market in the world. Key figures in the UK organic industry are already identifying this as a major opportunity – if it’s handled correctly, that is. A man who is rightly known as a ‘pioneer’ in the organic sector, Alex Smith, of Alara, has already sent a strong and clear message to the Government that this is a chance not to be fumbled.

At OF&G we welcome the move just as others in the sector do. There is little in the way of downside. Of course being the ones at the sharp end of operating the legal standards, we’re paying close attention to the detail behind the headlines. There isn’t much in the way of detail yet and we are pressing to know more about how the system will operate when it comes into force from June 1 this year.

There are still some exceptions to the rule where agreement could not be reached on equivalence, most notably on organic livestock, due to rules on antibiotic use, so a large portion of our organic sector will see little or no benefit at the moment.

But, all-in-all, this is a huge chance for UK organics to play its hand on even more of the global stage. Of course the ┬áNorth Americans are very good at what they do too, so they’ll come gunning for their share of the EU market. But if we believe in free trade, this is how it works.

Sending UK organic products to the States has long been possible, thanks to existing UK/US agreements and the input of the control bodies, but this is a massive stripping away of a load of red tape and you name a business that doesn’t welcome that!