Harmonization and Equivalence

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Organic agriculture and trade afford the world a high level of agro-ecosystem services and present social and economic opportunities for people, especially those in need of food security and ways out of poverty.

Among the foremost challenges for the further development of organic agriculture is a labyrinth of regulatory requirements that deny market access to many organic producers, especially small producers in developing countries.

IFOAM has worked for many years on the issue of harmonization and equivalence as a way to reduce technical barriers to organic trade. Since 2003, IFOAM has worked in collaboration with FAO and UNCTAD under the frame of the ITF project (International Task Force on Harmonization and Equivalence in Organic Agriculture) from 2003 to 2008, and then under the GOMA project (Global Organic Market Access) from 2009 to 2012.

To facilitate harmonization and equivalence, two tools have been developed and promoted under the above projects:

-   The Guide for Assessing Equivalence of Standards and Technical Regulations (EquiTool)
-   The International Requirements for Organic Certification Bodies (IROCB)

Under the GOMA project, the Equitool has been further developed to include as a new Annex: the Common Objectives and Requirements of Organic Standards (COROS), which is also used in the context of the IFOAM Family of Standards. The Family of Standards is IFOAM’s main instrument to promote harmonization and multilateral equivalence through assessments of all standards and regulations against one common international reference (the COROS).

IFOAM also provides advice to governments and national organic movements on standard development and on harmonization and equivalence issues. Policy recommendations have been formulated under the IFOAM Policy Brief “How Governments can regulate imports of organic inputs based on the concepts of harmonization and equivalence”.

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