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1. These guidelines have been prepared for the purpose of providing an agreed approach to the requirements which underpin production of, and the labelling and claims for, organically produced foods.

2. The aims of these guidelines are:

- to protect consumers against deception and fraud in the market place and unsubstantiated product claims;

- to protect producers of organic produce against misrepresentation of other agricultural produce as being organic;

- to ensure that all stages of production, preparation, storage, transport and marketing are subject to inspection and comply with these guidelines;

- to harmonize provisions for the production, certification, identification and labelling have organically grown produce;

- to provide international guidelines for organic food control systems in order to facilitate recognition of national systems as equivalent for the purposes of imports; and

- to maintain and enhance organic agricultural systems in each country so as to contribute to local and global preservation.

3. These guidelines are at this stage a first step into official international harmonization of the requirements for organic products in terms of production and marketing standards, inspection arrangements and labelling requirements. In this area the experience with the development of such requirements and their implementation is still very limited. Moreover, consumer perception on the organic production method may, in certain detailed but important provisions, differ from region to region in the world. Therefore, the following is recognized at this stage:
- the guidelines are a useful instrument in assisting countries to develop national regimes regulating production, marketing and labelling of organic foods;

- the guidelines need regular improvement and updating in order to take into account technical progress and the experience with their implementation;

- the guidelines do not prejudice the implementation of more restrictive arrangements and more detailed rules by member countries in order to maintain consumer credibility and prevent fraudulent practices, and to apply such rules to products from other countries on the basis of equivalency to such more restrictive provisions.

4. These guidelines set out the principles of organic production at farm, preparation, storage, transport, labelling and marketing stages, and provides an indication of accepted permitted inputs for soil fertilizing and conditioning, plant pest and disease control and, food additives and processing aids. For labelling purposes, the use of terms inferring that organic production methods have been used are restricted to products derived from operators under the supervision of an certification body or authority.

5. Organic agriculture is one among the broad spectrum of methodologies which are supportive of the environment. Organic production systems are based on specific and precise standards of production which aim at achieving optimal agroecosystems which are socially, ecologically and economically sustainable. Terms such as “biological” and “ecological" are also used in an effort to describe the organic system more clearly. Requirements for organically produced foods differ from those for other agricultural products in that production procedures are an intrinsic part of the identification and labelling of, and claim for, such products.

6. “Organic” is a labelling term that denotes products that have been produced in accordance with organic production standards and certified by a duly constituted certification body or authority. Organic agriculture is based on minimizing the use of external inputs, avoiding the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Organic agriculture practices cannot ensure that products are completely free of residues, due to general environmental pollution. However, methods are used to minimize pollution of air, soil and water. Organic food handlers, processors and retailers adhere to standards to maintain the integrity of organic agriculture products. The primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimize the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people.

7. Organic agriculture is holistic production management systems which promotes and enhances agroecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. It emphasizes the use of management practices in preference to the use of off-farm inputs, taking into account that regional conditions require locally adapted systems. This is accomplished by using, where possible, cultural, biological and mechanical methods, as opposed to using synthetic materials, to fulfil any specific function within the system. An organic production system is designed to:

a) enhance biological diversity within the whole system;

b) increase soil biological activity;

c) maintain long-term soil fertility;

d) recycle wastes of plant and animal origin in order to return nutrients to the land, thus minimizing the use of non-renewable resources;

e) rely on renewable resources in locally organized agricultural systems;

f) promote the healthy use of soil, water and air as well as minimize all forms of pollution thereto that may result from agricultural practices;

g) handle agricultural products with emphasis on careful processing methods in order to maintain the organic integrity and vital qualities of the product at all stages;

h) become established on any existing farm through a period of conversion, the appropriate length of which is determined by site-specific factors such as the history of the land, and type of crops and livestock to be produced.

8. The concept of close contact between the consumer and the producer is a long established practice. Greater market demand, the increasing economic interests in production, and the increasing distance between producer and consumer has stimulated the introduction of external control and certification procedures.

9. An integral component of certification is the inspection of the organic management system. Procedures for operator certification are based primarily on a yearly description of the agricultural enterprise as prepared by the operator in cooperation with the inspection body. Likewise, at the processing level, standards are also developed against which the processing operations and plant conditions can be inspected and verified. Where the inspection process is undertaken by the certification body or authority, there must be clear separation of the inspection and certification function. In order to maintain their integrity, certification bodies or authorities which certify the procedures of the operator should be independent of economic interests with regard to the certification of operators.

10. Apart from a small portion of agricultural commodities marketed directly from the farm to consumers, most products find their way to consumers via established trade channels. To minimize deceptive practices in the market place, specific measures are necessary to ensure that trade and processing enterprises can be audited effectively. Therefore, the regulation of a process, rather than a final product, demands responsible action by all involved parties.

11. Import requirements should be based on the principles of equivalency and transparency as set out in the Principles for Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification[1]. In accepting imports of organic products, countries would usually assess the inspection and certification procedures and the standards applied in the exporting country.

12. Recognizing that organic production systems continue to evolve and that organic principles and standards will continue to be developed under these guidelines, the Codex Committee on Food Labelling (CCFL) shall review these guidelines on a regular basis. The CCFL shall initiate this review process by inviting member governments and international organizations to make proposals to the CCFL regarding amendments to these guidelines prior to each CCFL meeting.

[1] CAC/GL 20-1995

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