|Don’t make it too difficult to import|
|Written by Gunnar Rundgren|
|Sunday, 20 November 2011 17:54|
IFOAM submits a policy brief advising governments not to complicate organic trade regulations
In a new policy brief, approved by the World Board in July 2011, IFOAM advises governments to not rush into regulating organic agriculture, and to do it with a view not to complicate imports and trade in organic products. IFOAM claims, perhaps contrary to common belief, that import of organic products to countries where the sector is small and emerging can help to develop the sector: ‘It is proven that consumers need a wide offer of products before the organic choice can become their daily habit. Hence facilitating imports of certified organic products into the country is an efficient way to promote domestic demand, which will in turn encourage domestic production.’
The brief states that the most important technical barrier to organic trade is the increasing number of government organic regulations that do not recognise or accept each other as equivalent. Very few countries recognise each others’ organic regulatory systems, which means that organic products have to be certified several times in order to access several markets. This places an unnecessary burden on producers, especially on small producers in developing countries.
The policy brief suggests measures to be taken to minimise those barriers. The recommendations were:
Consider organic product imports from the outset of establishing a regulation. Ensure that imports are primarily based on equivalence, not compliance.
An organic regulation should state that organic products may be imported if they comply with the domestic regulation, or if they comply with equivalent production and certification rules.
Adopt efficient processes to approve a high number of organic standards and technical regulations as equivalent.
Such processes recommended by IFOAM are to:
Adopt an efficient process to recognise a high number of performance requirements governing organic certification in other countries.
Here the recommendation is to accept IFOAM Accreditation as well as the new Global Organic System Accreditation. Both programmes are implemented by the International Organic Accreditation Service (IOAS). Governments that want to make their own assessments can use the ITF International Requirements for Organic Certification Bodies (IROCB) as the tool that will be used for recognition of certification requirements and foreign certification bodies.
Finally, IFOAM recommends that governments should engage in international efforts to harmonise organic standards and regulations, such as the processes to develop the Codex Alimentarius organic guidelines or the IFOAM Standard. At the regional level, governments can consider engaging in cooperation projects to harmonise standards and technical regulations and/or to foster regional equivalence. Such regional initiatives have been developed in East Africa, the Pacific, the Caribbean and in Asia. The recommendations in the policy brief are largely built on the analysis and recommendations emerging from the International Task Force on Harmonization and Equivalence in Organic Agriculture, a joint venture between FAO, IFOAM and UNCTAD.
Source: How Governments can Regulate Imports of Organic Products Based on the Concepts of Harmonization and Equivalence, IFOAM July 2011, available at www.ifoam.org
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