IFOAM Organic Guarantee System Revision to Provide More Access and Maintain Integrity

Bonn, April 4th 2007 -? IFOAM is revising its Organic Guarantee System to provide more access for producers, standard-setting and certification bodies, and governments. In mid-April, comments will be invited on a fundamental element of the revised Organic Guarantee System – the IFOAM Benchmark for Standards, which is a document resulting from the revision of the IFOAM Basic Standards (IBS). Gerald A. Herrmann, IFOAM President, offers the background and details of the revision, and calls for stakeholders to contribute to the revision process to create the best IFOAM Benchmark for Standards possible.

Dear IFOAM Members and other interested stakeholders,

As you may know, IFOAM is revising its Organic Guarantee System in order to provide considerably more access to it for producers, standard-setting and certification bodies, and governments.? In the time since IFOAM’s General Assembly mandated this revision in 2005, we have been working to produce new and revised elements of the system, all aimed at the goal of increasing access while at the same time maintaining integrity.? I am pleased to inform you that in mid-April you will be invited to comment on a fundamental element of the revised Organic Guarantee System – the IFOAM Benchmark for Standards. This document is the result of our work on revising the IFOAM Basic Standards (IBS).?

For more than 30 years, IFOAM has been developing the IFOAM Basic Standards.? The IBS started out in IFOAM’s early years as more-or-less a set of principles for organic agriculture and evolved over nearly two decades into detailed standards to apply directly to organic production and processing. During approximately the past 10 years, as so many private and regional certification standards had developed, the role of the IBS has been changing (as mandated by the IFOAM General Assembly) toward “standards for standards.”? This shift came about in order to recognize that organic agriculture is site specific and always at different stages of development around the world; and therefore that IFOAM’s role is more suitably to guide the development of standards, ensure their integrity, and be as inclusive of them as possible. Although the recent versions of the IBS moved in the direction of their new role as standards for standards, they did not fully fulfill it.

The Revision of the Organic Guarantee System, with its mandate to create more access, provided the means for the IBS to completely convert to the new role, and to set the baseline for differentiating organic systems from conventional ones. In this way, the new IBS serves as a benchmark for private and regulatory organic standards and systems establishing which production and processing systems are legitimately organic.? The new role of the IBS is signified by the new name, IFOAM Benchmark for Standards.? It is still the IBS, but now something different from organic standards that function directly for producers and processors. Instead the IBS is a baseline and a benchmark – the means to measure if organic standards meet the principles and objectives of organic agriculture and to identify those that do. As a consequence, all standards that meet the benchmark are eligible to be included into the Family of Organic Standards.

We will be providing much more information about the new IBS, on how they will function and how they are connected to other relevant elements of the Organic Guarantee System when we release the first draft for public comment in mid-April.

My final word is a request to you to comment on the draft of the new IBS. The power of participation is now needed to produce not just an IFOAM Benchmark for Standards, but the best one possible.??

With best regards,

Gerald A. Herrmann

IFOAM Press Release, Responsible: Angela B. Caudle, Contact: Neil Sorensen

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