Beginning on July 10, 2015, certified products of the United States (U.S.) and Switzerland can be represented as organic in each other’s markets. This equivalency agreement opens the vibrant Swiss organic consumer market to U.S. organic exporters.
BACKGROUND AND CLARIFICATIONS
Under the U.S./Swiss arrangement the Swiss Federal Office of Agriculture will recognize the USDA National Organic Program as equivalent to the Swiss Organic Ordinances (under applicable Swiss regulations) and will allow U.S. organic products to be marketed as organic in Switzerland. Similarly, USDA will recognize the Swiss Organic Ordinances as equivalent to the NOP. The text of the arrangement is very similar in format and substance to that of the EU, with the scope including crops, wild crops, livestock, and processed products. All products traded under the arrangement must:
- Be certified to the USDA organic regulations or the Swiss Organic Ordinances;
- Be either grown or produced in the United States or Switzerland, or have their final processing or packaging occur in the United States or Switzerland; and
- Meet the labeling requirements of the importing country.
Although there are small differences between the U.S. and EU/Swiss organic standards, both parties individually determined that their programs were equivalent except for additional requirements for organic wine and for Swiss organic livestock products.
- July 9, 2015 – Arrangements signed following an exchange of letters
- July 10, 2015 -- Effective date that trade may begin under the arrangement published following the exchange of letters
The arrangment will be ongoing and subject to annual review by the signators.
U.S./Swiss Organic Wine
The EU and Swiss arrangements recognize that the standards for wine grape production are equivalent. However, all sides have not agreed that standards for wine production were equivalent. Specifically, the USDA organic regulations prohibit the use of sulfites (a category of preservatives) to be added to wine. However, the EU/Swiss organic regulations allow sulfites to be added, but prohibit or restrict several standard winemaking practices allowed in the USDA organic regulations. Therefore, the arrangement requires that any wine products must be produced and labeled according to the importing country’s regulations. This allows organic wine to be traded under the arrangement while not putting either country’s wine producers at a competitive disadvantage.
The EU continues to seek equivalency on wine production, but the U.S. organic wine sector does not support an arrangement which would allow foreign wine producers to use added sulfites in the production of organic wine. However, if the United States and the EU were to reach consensus on how to further incorporate organic wine production into the organic equivalency arrangement, the resulting change would also be incorporated into the U.S.-Swiss organic equivalency arrangement.
Swiss Organic Livestock Products
The USDA organic regulations prohibit any use of antibiotics in organic livestock production. Importantly, a U.S. producers may not withhold treatment from an animal that has not responded to alternative remedies. However, the treated animal and products derived from that animal can no longer be sold, labeled, or represented as organic.
Conversely, the EU/Swiss organic regulations allow antibiotics only to treat infected animals; after a withholding period, the animal and products derived from that animal can again be sold, labeled, and represented as organic.
Therefore, similar to the EU arrangement, the Swiss organic equivalency arrangement will require that Swiss livestock products, or any ingredients used in such products, be derived from animals not treated with antibiotics. This requirement levels the playing field for U.S. organic livestock producers.
Both the U.S. and Swiss have identified an import certificate to be used for products traded under the arrangement. View a blank copy of the certificate.
U.S. access to the vibrant Swiss market has previously been severely limited by a complexity of duplicate and costly accreditation and certification requirements of Swiss authorities and an exclusionary Swiss certification control body. This agreement eliminates burdens for U.S. accredited certifiers to maintain and pay for duplicative third country recognition and/or accreditation to Swiss Organic Ordinances.
Organic Labeling Requirements
U.S Products to Switzerland
- USDA certified organic products can be sold as “organic” in Switzerland and can display the USDA organic seal. No additional certification is required.
- USDA organic products that meet the terms of the arrangement may be sold as “organic” in Switzerland and must be labeled according to Switzerland Federal Office of Agriculture (FOAG) organic labeling requirements. Unlike other organic equivalency partner countries, the Swiss Government does not administer an organic seal. Instead, organic products in Switzerland are typically labeled with seals from equivalent organic standards or Swiss-based non-Governmental standards requiring additional certification (such as BioSuisse). USDA officials have met with representatives from BioSuisse and major organic retailers in Switzerland in order to help facilitate the marketing of USDA organic products in Switzerland.
Swiss products to U.S.
- Swiss organic products that meet the terms of the arrangement may be sold as “organic” in the United States and must be labeled according to the NOP’s organic labeling requirements.
- Swiss organic products may display the USDA seal.
- Both sides have identified an import certificate to be used for products traded under the arrangement.
- The arrangement also requires both countries to report any changes that would affect the arrangement, allow on-site inspections to ensure that the terms of the arrangement are being met, and to submit an annual report.
- The arrangement will also establish an Organic Working Group, which will promote bilateral trade and to enhance regulatory and standards cooperation between FOAG and USDA on issues related to organic agricultural products.
OTA Members can direct questions about this agreement to:
Director, International Trade
Senior International Trade Advisor
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