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EU and US reach organic certification deal

A new pact between the EU and the US should reduce the red tape involved in selling foods classified as organic in one region to the other. Officials say the deal will help small- and medium-scale farmers.

Agriculture officials from the European Union and United States signed a deal on Wednesday that will recognize organic certification for nearly all food products.

"This partnership marks an important step, taking EU-US agricultural trade relations to a new level of cooperation," said EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos in a statement.

The US and EU are the world's first and second-largest markets for organic products, respectively. US organics are estimated to be worth $26.7 billion (20.4 billion euros), while the EU's market is $26 billion.

Market opportunities

According to figures from the German Agriculture Ministry, more than 90 percent of all sales of organic food are in the US or Europe.

A tractor in a field of lettuce

Officials said the deal with open up export markets to organic farmers

"This partnership connects organic farmers and companies on both sides of the Atlantic with a wide range of new market opportunities," US Deputy Agriculture Secretary Merrigan said in a statement.

The agreement seeks to boost trade in the expanding organic food industry by reducing the number of regulations placed on companies. Companies currently have to abide by both regions' organic regulations in order to export food products.

"Organic farmers and food producers will benefit from easier access, with less bureaucracy and less costs, to both the US and the EU markets, strengthening the competitiveness of this sector," Ciolos said.

Less bureaucracy

In addition to cutting down on paperwork for food producers, the deal is also meant to help them save money as they will be able to forgo organic certification by two sets of authorities. Certification in the US can cost hundreds of dollars.

There are, however, a few exceptions to the shared standards because of the regions' differing rules on the use of antibiotics. Wine has also been left out of the agreement because European standards regarding additives do not currently exist.

Organic apples

Some organic apples will be excluded from the deal

US apples and pears, which can be sprayed with some antibiotics that are forbidden for European fruits, will be excluded as will European meat and dairy products from animals treated with antibiotics. While the practice is allowed under EU organic regulations, US rules prohibit it.

The European Commission's Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development and the US Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program will be responsible with overseeing producers meet organic guidelines.

Trans-Atlantic trade accounted for 14.4 percent of European trade, making it the 27-member bloc's largest trading partner, according to EU Commission statistics.

The EU has already signed organic equivalence agreements with Argentina, Australia, Costa Rica, India, Israel, New Zealand and Switzerland.

Author: Sean Sinico
Editor: Holly Fox

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