PGS Basics

Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS) are revisiting the way organic certification started a few decades ago. At the same time, many PGS have existed for over 40 years. The development and professionalization of the organic sector, accompanied by increased international trade has called for third party certification to become the norm in most developed organic markets; nevertheless, PGS have never stopped to exist and serve organic producers and consumers eager to maintain local economies and direct, transparent relationships. 

Thousands of organic producers and consumers are now verified through PGS initiatives around the world. Although details of methodology and process vary, the key elements and features remain consistent worldwide. 

Key Elements of PGS
  1. Shared Vision
  2. Participation
  3. Transparency
  4. Trust: Integrity-based approach
  5. Learning Process
  6. Horizontality
Features of PGS
  1. Norms conceived by the stakeholders
  2. Grassroots Organization
  3. Suitable to smallholder agriculture
  4. Principles and values that enhance livelyhoods
  5. Documented management systems and procedures
  6. Mechanisms to verify farmer compliance
  7. Mechanisms to support farmers
  8. Farmers' pledges
  9. Seals or labels as evidence of organic status
  10. Clear, pre-defined consequences for non-compliance


Thanks to the efforts of networks such as MAELA and IFOAM, the PGS concept has gained recognition and is now viewed by many as one of the most promising tools to develop local organic markets. But there are still many who are not familiar with PGS, who would like to know more about it or who are not so sure about how some issues are dealt with in these systems.

If you are new to PGS, this is the right place to start. Browse through the sessions below for answers to the most frequently asked questions. 
If you don´t find what you are looking for, please send an email to pgs [at] ifoam [dot] org. The IFOAM PGS Team is looking forward to talking to you!
What is PGS? How does it work? Why do we need it?
Is PGS a viable organic certification system? What is the difference between PGS and ICS? And between PGS and third-party certification?
How to start PGS? What to consider when launching a PGS?