U.S. and Europe Find Common Ground on Organics

Mar 09, 2012

In an outbreak of peace in the food world, the United States and European Union (EU) have agreed to accept one another’s definitions of "organic" so that food labeled as such by either can be sold on both turfs.

The Grocer claims "the EU and the U.S. are the world’s largest producers of organic food." Foodanddrinkeurope.com quotes Organic Monitor’s clarification, however, that they are "the largest consumers of organic food, but not the main producers of organic crops."

Free trade is expected to start June 1, eliminating previous requirements for separate certifications. Organic Monitor observed that consumers should benefit from stable — and potentially lower — prices as a result of both an improved supply-demand balance and greater product variety.

Reducing bureaucracy and costs while increasing competitiveness are objectives cited by Dacian Ciolos, EU Agriculture Commissioner. "Organic farmers and food producers will benefit from easier access; in addition, it improves transparency on organic standards and enhances consumers’ confidence and recognition of our organic food and products," he said, adding that there would now be "less bureaucracy and less cost, strengthening the competitiveness of this sector" according to The Grocer.

U.S. Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan told McClatchy Newspapers and NPR, "It’s been the apple of our eye for a long time. … Getting to this point meant getting over some prejudices … many Europeans had the feeling that U.S. standards were probably too permissive for the benefit of big organic agribusiness. U.S. officials, for their part, didn’t think the Europeans did enough verification to make sure farmers actually follow the rules."

One difference remaining concerns antibiotic usage. While American rules prohibit the use of antibiotics other than controlling bacterial infections in apple and pear orchards, EU regulations allow them for treating animals. As a result, no meat or milk from animals treated with antibiotics can be imported and sold in the U.S. as organic, NPR and McClatchy stressed.

Discussion Questions: Will the agreement by the U.S. and European Union to accept each other’s organic standards open up sourcing and marketing opportunities for retailers in this country? How can retailers use this opportunity to their advantage?

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6 Comments on "U.S. and Europe Find Common Ground on Organics"

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Ken Lonyai

Regarding commerce: sure, more businesses can sell into bigger markets worldwide.

Regarding organics: the term is meaningless in so many ways practically, that this is likely another step towards clouding the term organic and making it even more of a marketing phrase than an indication of food purity. That’s something retailers can take advantage of whether it’s “appropriate” or not.

Jack Pansegrau
Jack Pansegrau
5 years 7 months ago

As one who would like to see an “Organic Lite” label, so more families could afford organic, this is good news. Now if only the US would let “real French Cheese” be imported.

Ryan Mathews

It may — but of course this overlooks one critical point. The hardcore organic consumer is committed, communicative and politicized. So, it’s safe to assume they may not be as anxious to accept a global standard as their government, no matter which side “of the pond” they live on. The organic community doesn’t trust their own government all that much, much less anyone else’s.

That said, let me echo Jack’s sentiments. Anything that gets real French cheeses to the U.S. — and out of U.S. refrigerators or as the French might say “cheese morgues” — is alright with me!

Ralph Jacobson

The organic market is such a small fraction of the global market that I’m thinking this is far more politically correct than it will be “market-correct.” Retailers need to create more awareness of organics in consumers’ minds before this agreement will have much impact.

Craig Sundstrom

Has the world not learned the tragedy of appeasement … or is it a-peas-ment? (Yuk, yuk, yuk) It’s hard to argue against cooperation — unless of course you’re a partisan arguing for your own definition — but I’m not sure how meaningful this will be. Doesn’t organic go hand-in-hand with locally sourced?

M. Jericho Banks PhD
M. Jericho Banks PhD
5 years 7 months ago

As always, missing from these discussions is proof that “organic” is beneficial in some research-based way. For people or for agriculture. All conversation regarding “organic” should cease until its so-called benefits are known for a fact. Every “kumbaya,” feel-good opinion — not fact — regarding any benefits of “organic” are moot because they have yet to be proven.

So, in the absence of proof but to the benefit of radical environmentalists and pretend-nutritionists who support liberal politics and pretend science, we shirk doing the real research work and just go with the flow. It’s so much easier to buy in when you’re trying to get re-elected.


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