The History of the OGS Revision
The OGS Revision project can be divided into two phases, the review phase and the revision phase. This section gives a brief overview of the review phase.
The OGS Review
In November 2003, the IFOAM World Board decided to undertake a Review
of the Organic Guarantee System. The purpose of the review was to
identify an Organic Guarantee System that will best implement IFOAM's
mission in the changed global environment, which includes the
proliferation of government regulations, labeling initiatives
(including those within powerful private supply chains), and the rapid
growth of all organic sectors including the number of certifiers.
The IFOAM mission includes both leading and uniting the organic
movement in service to the goal of worldwide adoption of organic
agriculture. IFOAM has established 5 intermediate goals upon the
foundation of its mission. The OGS is related to the fourth goal, as
follows: "IFOAM promotes the development of organic markets"
This goal reflects that organic agriculture can only be adopted
worldwide, if the markets for organic products are further developed.
In this context the decision to embark on the review was based on the
In order to proceed with the review the WB appointed a special Task Force
and engaged stakeholders in an ambitious consultation.
- The GA 1998 asked the Board to clarify the role of the IFOAM
Basic Standards “To resolve the conflict between the role of the
standards as being a reflection of the majority and the wishes to
“improve” organic agriculture by introduction of requirements that go
further than the practices of the majority”.
- The IFOAM program 2005 as presented to the GA 2002 called for a
review, as follows: IFOAM and some of its members have spent
considerable resources on the development of the Guarantee
System. At the same time many IFOAM members are not participating
in the system and/or feel it has no relevance for them. Before the next
GA, IFOAM will undertake a comprehensive review of the Guarantee System
including how it serves IFOAM and its members. The World Board will
present the results of the review and its recommendations to the GA
- A number of surveys show that many members don’t know the OGS,
don’t understand it or don’t see it as contributing to goals such as
- IFOAM has not managed to get government recognition of the system
and therefore the system doesn’t work as the harmonizing mechanism that
- Many IFOAM Accredited Certification Bodies certify a large number
of producers and processors outside their IFOAM Accreditation program.
As a result, equivalence and recognition within the group of ACBs is
- The WB has revised the mission of IFOAM and embarked on strategic
planning, which, among others call for making the OGS more accessible.
With assistance from the Task Force, IFOAM held a first consultation in
February, 2004 at BioFach, where participants were given an opportunity
to express their opinions about the Organic Guarantee System and how it
should be taken into the future. Noting the comments, the OGS Review
Task Force (ORTF) developed four scenarios.
The scenarios describe different options for how a future Organic
Guarantee System could be structured and how it would fundamentally
function, and even included an option for eliminating the OGS (which
was rejected in consultation). In the second consultation of the
Review, respondents were asked to evaluate and comment on the four
scenarios. The consultation was not a vote on any scenario but rather
to get some indication of the direction in which the Organic Guarantee
System should be changed and feedback on criteria that should be used
to evaluate the options for the OGS. The two Scenarios that
interested respondents most (Scenarios B and C) share common points
such as a revamp of the IFOAM norms to make them more accessible, but
diverge in the method by which the "guarantee" in the guarantee system
would be implemented. The "B" scenario reflected the current
method (IFOAM Accreditation by IOAS to the two norms). The "C"
scenario set up a new program to register certification bodies who
could be supervised by either the IOAS orother supervision bodies.
The World Board reviewed results of the second consultation and decided
to move the two Scenarios forward in a third consultation process, held
during the fourth quarter of 2004. Feedback came through written
consultation and also at a Summit of IFOAM leaders, where the OGS
Review was discussed intensively. The feedback indicated that neither
of the two scenarios are distinctly preferred, but a consensus emerged
that the system should be more accessible while retaining credibility
and value. In particular, there was a question about whether a
registration scheme proposed in Scenario C would provide sufficient
value to make it feasible. But the registration scheme was also
seen as potentially offering the most access to the system.
The Task Force and the WB then proceeded to develop a single proposal
to move forward, taking the following factors into consideration:
IFOAM received a total of 50 responses to its consultation on the
proposal. 30 of these are written responses to IFOAM's invitation to
members and other key stakeholders to comment. Another 20 are results
of interviews conducted by the OGS Review Task Force, which were
primarily targeted at the governments and CBs that do not participate
in the IFOAM Accreditation Program.
Summit and Consultation Feedback, including all prior consultations.
Compatibility with the "universe" of organic regulation and trade.
Convergence with the work of the International Task Force on Harmonization and Equivalence in Organic Agriculture (ITF).
IFOAM Mission/goal: Unification, leadership, and worldwide assistance towards the adoption of organic agriculture.
- Different stages of development in organic sectors [from just emerging
to (over)regulated], and especially the needs of the sectors in
The results of the above consultation on the Organic Guarantee System
indicated that there is not sufficient consensus to create a
substantially new OGS. Nonetheless, the results also showed that there
is big support in the organic world to make the system more accessible
and to encourage cooperation. The Task Force made several concrete
proposals upon which the World Board in June 2005 concluded that the best
way to proceed would be to develop certain elements of these proposals,
particularly those around which consensus developed. Those were:
Also the following elements for additional discussion were identified by the Task Force and the WB:
- Comprehensive Review and Revision of IBS that has the effect to differentiate organic from non-organic.
- Continued revision of IAC for greater accessibility for certification bodies.
- Revision of IAC and IAP procedures to facilitate acceptance and cooperation with other systems.
- Development of IFOAM Family of Certification Standards (approval of regional or issue based standards).
- IFOAM Norms to be publicly available as international standards.
- IFOAM “Certification Body Forum” for cooperation between certification bodies.
- Certifier training and technical assistance (connected also to CB Forum).
- Financial Assistance program for low-resourced certifiers.
As a result of these changes the OGS would be oriented more towards harmonization and majority practices.
- Option within IFOAM Accreditation Program for accreditation to IFOAM Accreditation Criteria only.
- Access for other accreditors to perform IFOAM Accreditation.
- A new Seal for the OGS.
- New forms of cooperation with governments.
The WB acknowledged that re-orientation of OGS, would result in a need
to promote Best Practices in organic in a more distinct way and that
new programs would have to be designed to that end.
The WB also acknowledged that the procedures involved in all the
aspects of the OGS needed to be revised to ensure a simpler and
transparent system without redundant bureaucracy.
Based on the above considerations the WB submitted a motion to IFOAM
General Assembly, in September 2005 in Adelaide, seeking the
endorsement of the GA to revise the OGS in line with the above
At the General Assembly the WB motion received significant support and
was approved with a few amendments. The approval signifies the end of
the review process and beginning of the actual OGS revision. For further information please go back to the OGS Revision Section.