Secondary Menu

Home > News > Press Releases > Historic signing finalizes organic equivalence arrangement between EU and U.S.

Historic signing finalizes organic equivalence arrangement between EU and U.S.

The world’s two largest markets for organic food expand organic market access

Barbara Haumann
(802) 275-3820
Washington , DC
February 15, 2012
) — 

NUREMBERG, Germany, and WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a press event today at BioFach Germany, European Commissioner Dacian Cioloş for the European Union’s (EU) Agriculture and Rural Development and Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan of the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the signing of an organic equivalence arrangement between the world’s two largest markets for organic food. Under the arrangement, the EU and United States will work together to promote strong organic programs, protect organic standards, enhance cooperation, and facilitate trade in organic products.

Officials noted the EU - U.S. organic equivalence cooperation arrangement will expand market access for organic producers and companies by reducing duplicative requirements and certification costs on both sides of the ocean while continuing to protect organic integrity.

“This monumental agreement will further create jobs in the already growing and healthy U.S. organic sector, spark additional market growth, and be mutually beneficial to farmers both in the United States and European Union as well as to consumers who choose organic products,” said Christine Bushway, Executive Director and CEO of the U.S.-based Organic Trade Association (OTA). She added, “Equivalence with the EU will be an historic game changer.”

As a result, certified organic products as of June 1 can move freely between the United States and EU borders provided they meet the terms of the new arrangement. Under the agreement, the EU will recognize the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) as equivalent to the EU Organic Program and allow products produced and certified as meeting USDA NOP standards to be marketed as organic in the EU. Likewise, the United States will allow European products produced and certified under the EU Organic Program to be marketed as organic in the United States.

The agreement will allow access to each other’s markets provided (1) antibiotics were not administered to animals for products entering the United States, and (2) antibiotics were not used to control fire blight in apples and pears for products entering the European Union. To facilitate trade, the EU and United States have agreed to work together to promote electronic certification of import transaction certificates.

The arrangement is limited to organic products of U.S. or EU origin produced, processed or packaged within these jurisdictions. Additionally, both programs have agreed to exchange information on animal welfare issues, and on methods to avoid contamination of organic products from genetically modified organisms. General country labeling requirements must still be met.

“On behalf of the U.S. organic industry, OTA extends its sincere appreciation to the U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), National Organic Program, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), and OTA’s U.S.-EU Equivalency Task Force for all their efforts in maintaining and expanding foreign export markets for USDA certified organic products globally. The results are mutually beneficial arrangements with our major trading partners that uphold the integrity of food grown and labeled as organic,” Bushway said.

OTA convened its U.S.-EU Equivalency Task Force in May 2010 to monitor, analyze and discuss emerging issues from organic equivalency discussions between the United States and EU, and directly advised FAS and USTR on the industry’s perspective on these negotiations and market potential. This task force is made up of 34 industry volunteers from across the supply chain, from produce and grain companies to dairy producers and certification agencies. It is led by OTA’s Executive Vice President Laura Batcha and Jake Lewin of California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) as co-chairs, with Bob Anderson (Sustainable Strategies—Advisors in Food & Agriculture) serving as ex officio.

For more information, see OTA’s US EU Equivalency page, or USDA’s website. For a high-resolution photo of the signing, contact Barbara Haumann.

Photo caption: Taking part at the historic organic equivalence signing were (from left) European Commissioner Dacian Cioloş, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan, and Ambassador Isi Siddiqui, U.S. Trade Representative’s Chief Agriculture Negotiator.


The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America. OTA is the leading voice for the organic trade in the United States, representing over 6,500 organic businesses across 49 states. Its members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others. OTA’s Board of Directors is democratically elected by its members. OTA's mission is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public and the economy.