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Annex 6. Organic schemes


IFOAM is a global grassroots umbrella organization which, since its establishment in France in 1972, has grown to include 750 member organizations involved with organic agriculture production and operating in 108 countries. Although strictly speaking IFOAM is not a true certification scheme, in addition to other efforts towards organic agriculture, it provides standards that organic certification schemes should include and, as such, it is considered in this section. IFOAM's mission is "leading, uniting and assisting the organic movement in its full diversity" and its goal is "worldwide adoption of ecologically, socially and economically sound systems that are based on the Principles of Organic Agriculture", indicating a broader interest in the food safety focus often perceived when referring to organic production. The principles of organic aquaculture include the following:

More detailed principles are also included in IFOAM standard documents.

IFOAM's broad interest in sustainability is also represented by its partnership with IUCN, the International Fair Trade Association (IFAT) and ISEAL. In addition, IFOAM engages with a wide range of international organizations and it has observer status or is otherwise accredited by the following international institutions: The United Nations General Assembly; FAO; the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); the Codex Alimentarius Commission (FAO and WHO); the World Trade Organization (WTO); the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); and the International Labour Organization of the United Nations (ILO).

The IFOAM General Assembly represents the foundation of the organization and it is comprises all of IFOAM's members. IFOAM membership is open to any entity predominantly involved with the organic movement including producers, processors, traders, retailers, certifiers, consultants and researchers. The General Assembly elects the IFOAM World Board (composed of ten members) which decides on issues yet to be decided at the General Assembly and sets up official committees and groups. Inter alia, IFOAM operates through the three Organic Guarantee System (OGS) committees. The Organic Guarantee System is aimed at providing a market guarantee of the integrity of organic claims, fostering equivalence among participating certifiers. The three Organic Guarantee System committees are: the Norms Management Committee, focusing on the process and management of the OGS; the Standards Committee, in charge of developing the IFOAM Basic Standards, which include the rules and regulations for organic production and processing and form the basis for IFOAM accreditation; and the Criteria Committee, which develops the IFOAM Accreditation Criteria (IAC) that are IFOAM accreditation programme requirements for the operation of organic certification programmes.

The IFOAM Basic Standards are structured as "standards for standards" and, as such, they provide a framework for CBs and standard-setting organizations to develop their own more detailed certification standards that take into account specific local conditions. Standards to be developed in accordance with IFOAM standards are meant to be process and not product standards, although products are clearly labeled as organic. The IFOAM standards are revised regularly (latest revisions in 2002 and 2005) through a process of public consultation with IFOAM members and other key stakeholders, after which if standards receive ratification by the IFOAM General Assembly they come into force. In addition, a procedure for urgent standard revision is also available. The aforesaid process is in compliance with the Code of Good Practice for Setting Social and Environmental Standards, produced by ISEAL.

Through a system of third party certification, the OGS allows CBs to become IFOAM accredited so that they can certify operators (e.g. producers) to label products with the IFOAM seal to be recognizable to consumers. Accreditation of CBs is not conducted directly by IFOAM, but by the International Organic Accreditation Service Inc. (IOAS), which is a non-profit organization operated independently by IFOAM. To be accredited, CBs have to use certification standards that meet the IFOAM Basic Standards and, as such, they are, or have strong links with, a standard-setting organization (e.g. Bioland, Debio, National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia etc.).65 CBs also have to comply with the IFOAM accreditation criteria, which are requirements for how certification is conducted. It is important to point out that, although as stated by IOAS some of IFOAM's certifier members or their operators may be using their IFOAM membership to denote some sort of recognition, IFOAM membership does not constitute IFOAM accreditation or recognition. By January 2007 there were 34 IFOAM-accredited CBs (ACBs), eight of which can issue certificates to aquaculture businesses. The list of ACBs includes Naturland and the Soil Association (see hereunder), although the scope of IFOAM accreditation does not include certification for compliance to Naturland or Soil Association standards, meaning that a producer certified for compliance to the Naturland standards is not necessarily also compliant to the IFOAM Basic Standards. This is particularly the case for aquaculture, which is not one of the scopes for which Naturland and the Soil Association receive accreditation. Since the late 1990s IFOAM ACBs have been organized in the ACB Group which supports its members and affects public policy on issues relating to certification and accreditation through education and sharing of ideas.

To address the fact that the agriculture sector of several countries is composed of many small-scale producers, IFOAM established a system for Smallholder Group Certification. Through this mechanism, small-scale farmers with similar farming practices and who market collectively can be certified together. Farmers set up an Internal Control System (ICS) implemented by internal "inspectors" (e.g. better farmers) who inspect all the farms. IFOAM ACBs then audit the ICS though visits to a specified number of farms and the evaluation of the ICS. At present more than 50 percent of the IFOAM ACBs (i.e. 18/34) are accredited for "Grower Groups" certification.

As clearly stated in a position paper, IFOAM also supports organic agriculture broadly for its contributions to farmers and society in general, including non-certified forms of organic agriculture. In addition, IFOAM recognizes other forms to guarantee compliance to organic standards such as self-declaration or participatory guarantee systems which are quality-assurance initiatives that use their own written standards, often based on IFOAM's Basic Standards. These alternatives, which generally include a process of verification of compliance are seen by IFOAM as suitable for local markets where producers, traders and consumers are not separated by anonymous relationships.

IFOAM Basic Standards can be applied to the production, processing and marketing of crop, livestock and wild products. These include fruit and vegetables, grains, beans, oil crops, honey, livestock, textile crops and others. The latest version of the Basic Standards (2005) includes a chapter specific to aquaculture. In addition, IFOAM also established an Aquaculture Group to pursue IFOAM's objectives within the area of aquaculture and capture fisheries and representing its members both inside and outside IFOAM.

Certification body

Countries of operation

No. of certified aquaculture farms

Accredited for grower groups

No. of certified groups

Aquaculture commodities within the scheme

Production (tonnes)



2 + 1 fish feed mill

no NA

Tilapia, carp, red drum, sea bass, sea bream, Ulva and Ulea seaweed


AgriQuality Ltd.

New Zealand, Vanuatu, Cook Islands, Malaysia


Bioland e.V.

Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland



Norway 3 no NA

salmon, trout, cod

trout 0.5 salmon 120 cod 60067

Instituto Biodinamico

Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Paraguay, Uruguay


Istituto per la Certificazione Etica e Ambientale

Italy, Lebanon, Turkey


National Association Sustainable Agriculture Australia

Australia, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Solomon Islands


Organic Agriculture Certification Thailand


1 (not under the IFOAM-accredited scheme)

yes 0

nile tilapia and butter fish

8 000 litres (fish sauce)68

The eight CBs IFOAM accredited to certify aquaculture establishments operate in a wide range of countries. Some of their details are reported in Table A1. Information provided by three of them indicates that aquaculture certification by IFOAM ACBs is still in early stages.

On the retail side, several national organic retailer associations have united into the IFOAM Organic Retailer Association, which in addition to representing its member interests internationally also has the purpose of "gradually developing a system of Organic Retailers Standards concerning assortment, handling, storage and labeling of products and qualification, education and social issues of the retail participants".


Naturland (Association for Organic Agriculture) was founded in 1982 in Germany with the objective and mission of "conserving the environment and maintaining the natural basis of life by means of organic farming in all fields of agriculture". Like IFOAM, therefore, Naturland includes environmental and social responsibility in the concept of organic aquaculture. Naturland promotes organic agriculture worldwide developing and contributing to the development of standards, encouraging research, promoting improvements especially in social conditions in agriculture and in trade, through education and awareness raising. Naturland is an IFOAM ACB and as such can certify businesses using standards that have been accredited through the IFOAM OGS procedures. In addition, Naturland also sets its own standards and certification schemes that are outside the purview of IFOAM accreditation. Naturland membership is open to all Naturland certified businesses. Naturland is organized on a regional and federal basis, with members electing delegates to take part in the Assembly of Delegates, which elects the Naturland Board of Directors, determines the policy and objectives of the association, elects the members of the Standards Committee in addition to ratifying modifications to standards upon recommendations of the Standards Committee. The Standards Committee is in charge of drafting and updating Naturland standards following the fundamental principles of organic aquaculture.

Compliance to Naturland standards is assessed through annual and occasional random inspections conducted by independent organizations. Inspections are generally conducted by the Institute for Marketecology (IMO) although other inspection bodies can and have been used to perform this task. Bodies performing inspections however do not issue certificates (i.e. they are not actual Naturland ACBs), as this task is conducted by the Naturland Certification Committee. Although part of the overall Naturland organization, the deliberations of this committee are independent and based on compliance to Naturland standards alone. The Certification Committee operates through three sub-committees (i.e. domestic production, international production, processing), which review inspection reports and issue Naturland certificates. Naturland certification authorizes the use of the Naturland logo on products, which therefore makes them recognizable to consumers. On special occasions the Certification Committee can allow a producer to deviate from Naturland standards, provided this deviation is justified, for a limited period of time and the overall management according to standards is not affected.

To improve the management of organic businesses and ease the process of inspection and certification, Naturland has entered a number of initiatives that use IT solutions. E-TQM is a tool that allows inspected businesses to improve their position when cooperating with inspection and CBs, by allowing businesses to generate the necessary documentation that forms the basis for certification more easily. Similarly, e-Cert is software covering the whole scope of work performed by inspection bodies and certifiers and allegedly allows the inspection procedure to be run five times faster than using regular methods. The adoption of e-Cert is also said to reduce the cost of inspections. To assist small-scale producers in complying with certification requirements Naturland also produces extension material on the development of internal inspection systems.

Naturland has developed standards for the production of a wide range of commodities including fruit, vegetables, honey, livestock and for forest management. In 1995, standards for aquaculture production were initialized, first for pond aquaculture, then for salmonids and mussels and other cold water species and in 1999 for shrimp. The Naturland Standards for Organic Aquaculture (latest version issued in 2005) now include specific regulations for a range of aquaculture commodities such as:

Naturland Standards for processing of agriculture and aquaculture products are also available (latest version issued in 2006).

A number of projects aimed at assisting producers in complying with Naturland standards and benefiting from implementation of organic aquaculture are also being conducted in several countries (e.g. Viet Nam, Bangladesh, India), often in partnership with the Swiss Import Promotion Programme (SIPPO) and with COOP Switzerland, where the certified products are marketed.

Of approximately 45 000 Naturland members listed on the Naturland Web site for 2005, less than 2 percent (i.e. 824) are involved with aquaculture, the majority (i.e. 99 percent, 816/824) are shrimp farmers in Viet Nam. In a different section, the Naturland Web site also states that aquaculture commodities in more than 20 countries are produced according to Naturland standards including trout in Germany, France and Spain, salmon in Ireland, shrimp in Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Viet Nam, Thailand and Indonesia, tilapia in Israel, Ecuador and Honduras as well as Pangasius in Viet Nam. Other sources confirm the popularity of the Naturland aquaculture standards reporting a plan to produce 20 000 tonnes of Naturland organic tilapia in China.69 In addition, preliminary discussion to convert regular shrimp farms in India and Bangladesh into Naturland organic-certified entities has also been conducted.70 In spite of these signs of expansion, a comparison of recent figures with 2003 data71 showed that several Naturland shrimp farms and hatcheries in Ecuador and Peru are no longer certified and the number of aquaculture members in Indonesia and Viet Nam has also decreased. This may not be accurate due to the lack of updated information in parts of the Naturland Web site, which also reports that the overall trend in the number of certified agriculture farms is reported to have more than doubled between 1999 and 2005.


The Soil Association is a UK-based body which plays a key role in the campaigning and certification of organic food and farming. The association was founded in 1946 by a group of farmers, scientists and nutritionists with the mission to "create an informed body of public opinion about these links and to promote organic agriculture as a sustainable alternative to intensive farming methods". The association has been conducting several activities aimed at supporting organic farming not only for its food safety benefits but also to address animal welfare issues and environmental sustainability (most recently conducting initiatives on climate-friendly food and farming).

Standards are produced by eight independent standard committees (including an Aquaculture Standard Committee) composed of Soil Association members and licensees, researchers and experts. Draft standards are circulated to all members and licensees for consultation and receive final approval by the elected Soil Association council. The Soil Association also contributes to the development of other organic standards at the national, EU and international levels.

Certification for conformity to standards is conducted solely by the Soil Association Certification Ltd., a company in charge of conducting both inspections and certification of producers, processors and suppliers. Certification is offered for all Soil Association standards and both within the United Kingdom and internationally. All the profits generated through the process of certification are passed on to the Soil Association.

Soil Association Standards have been developed for a wide range of commodities. Standards for the aquaculture sector are included in a general aquaculture chapter and five species-specific chapters for the following commodities: Atlantic salmon; trout and arctic char; shrimp; bivalves; carp.

The Soil Association operates primarily in the United Kingdom, where 70 percent of the organic produce (which includes fruit and vegetables, meat products and wood) are said to be Soil Association certified. By March 2007 there were 45 Soil Association-certified businesses. These are salmon and trout hatcheries, producers and processors, accounting for production in 2005 of 3 050 tonnes of salmon and 460 tonnes of trout.72 Although all Soil Association-certified aquaculture businesses are located in the United Kingdom, Soil Association Certification Ltd. also offers certification for shrimp and mussel producers outside the country.


BioGro is New Zealand's leading organic certification scheme and it is owned by the New Zealand Biological Producers and Consumers Council Inc. (NZBPCC), a non-profit society that was founded in 1983 and which, in addition to the BioGro logo, trademark and standards, also owns BioGro New Zealand Ltd. (the certification arm of the scheme) and Organic Certification New Zealand Ltd., which supplies training and other support to organic agriculture in New Zealand. The BioGro certification scheme comprises three components: (1) IFOAM accredited, (2) non-IFOAM accredited and (3 defined as "domestic".

The IFOAM-accredited standards were first published in 1984 and are now posted on the BioGro Web site in their 2001 version although standards are reviewed annually. An additional six Standards Changes and seven Technical Bulletins were also produced from 2002 to 2005 and represent modifications to the standards that must be taken into account during the certification procedures. The process of review depends on the changes made to the IFOAM standards and on the input received by organic consumer organizations. The BioGro Standards include an aquaculture module containing standards for the overall sector, finfish, shellfish and crustacean farming and processing. However, aquaculture is not reported by IOAS as one of the scopes for which BioGro is IFOAM accredited and, as such, is not included among the eight CBs listed in the earlier IFOAM section.

Auditing of businesses to assess conformity to BioGro Standards is conducted by BioGro auditors who conduct both annual and random inspections. In addition to certification for primary producers, the IFOAM-accredited scheme includes certification for processors, exporters, input manufacturers, pack-houses, distributors, retailers and service providers.

The non-IFOAM-accredited and domestic schemes follow a similar path to the IFOAM-accredited scheme, although adherence to the BioGro standards and the auditing process can be relatively less thorough. The non-IFOAM-accredited scheme is meant for businesses exporting to countries where organic labeling is not regulated and markets where IFOAM accreditation is not required and for the EU and United States for products outside the scope of their respective organic labeling regulations. Contrariwise, the domestic scheme is designed for businesses targeting the domestic market only. The cost of certification is lower for these two schemes outside the IFOAM accreditation system.

BioGro is reported to certify over 700 operations in New Zealand, including primary producers, processing plants, input suppliers, exporters and retailers, trademarking over NZ$100 million (approximately equal to US$70 million) worth of products every year. As of March 2007 the only aquaculture businesses certified by BioGro belong to the non-IFOAM-accredited scheme. These are two mussel producers, two seafood processors and two seafood exporters.


Bio Suisse is the umbrella association of Swiss organic farming organizations and producers and includes more than 30 organizations and about 6 300 farms, with an alleged 11 percent of the Swiss farmland being cultivated to Bio Suisse standards.

Bio Suisse operates through a Steering Committee composed of five to nine members, most of whom are said to be organic farmers. The president and new members of the Steering Committee are elected by the Assembly of Delegates, which comprises 100 delegates elected by the Bio Suisse members. The Steering Committee is the Bio Suisse strategic decision-making body and, among other tasks, issues job descriptions for the label commissions (LC) and the technical commissions in addition to electing the presidents of the technical commissions.

The responsibility of developing and revising standards lies with the Assembly of Delegates, with the support of the technical commissions, which address issues specific to different sectors. The Bio Suisse standards include a set of annexes (e.g. on permitted substances, etc.), which are amended by the LC.

Bio Suisse standards cover not only organic farming but also processing and marketing of organic products. Conformity to Bio Suisse standards is assessed by inspection bodies authorized by Bio Suisse; they are selected among bodies that have been accredited by the Swiss accreditation authority. The Bio Suisse Web site reports four such bodies, including the IMO. The three LCs (LC Production, LC Import and LC Processing Marketing) decide on the awarding of the Bud label, which can be applied to products to indicate compliance to the Bio Suisse standards. Interestingly only businesses with a Swiss partner (e.g. importers) can apply for Bio Suisse certification.73

Bio Suisse also allows for inspection and certification of cooperatives, projects and producer groups based on criteria set by Naturland, IFOAM and FVO (Farm Verified Organic).

Following a two-year long cooperation with fish breeders, farmers, animal welfare organizations and fish experts from Switzerland and abroad, in 2000 Bio Suisse adopted standards for organic aquaculture. Standards refer to the farming of organic fish (trout, salmon, carp etc.), although approval for shrimp and mussels may also be obtained if a number of conditions including compliance with the Naturland standards (or equivalent) are met.

Bio Suisse certified aquaculture products now include salmon and trout in Europe and Pangasius in Viet Nam.


KRAV is an association that promotes organic farming. It is composed of 28 members who are said to represent the interests of producers, traders, processors and consumers in addition to protecting the environment and animal welfare. Although the focus of its activities is in Sweden, KRAV supports international activities towards organic farming through its interactions with IFOAM and the European Union.

Standards are developed and revised by KRAV sometimes following several rounds of comments and are approved by the KRAV Board of Directors. KRAV standards are applicable to farming and all links in the supply chain including distributors, processors and restaurants.

The assessment of conformity to KRAV standards is conducted by an authorized inspection body, which is also authorized to issue certificates on behalf of KRAV, of which there are presently almost 50, located in 22 countries across the world including Japan, Thailand and Australia.

The KRAV scheme offers a wide range of labels to differentiate products based on the amount of organic material contained, to label production inputs, for export and for wild production. In addition, because KRAV standards are included in the IFOAM accreditation programme, the "IFOAM accredited" mark can also be applied if certification is issued by a CB which is IFOAM accredited for using KRAV standards (presently only Aranea Certifiering AB, Sweden). However, as the only IFOAM-accredited CB using KRAV standards is not accredited for aquaculture, KRAV certification for aquaculture products is issued outside the scope of IFOAM accreditation.

KRAV standards are said to be developed for the conditions of Nordic countries although exceptions can be made for situations in which the standards are not applicable and if those exceptions fulfil IFOAM standards and EU regulations for organic production. KRAV standards cover several production sectors including crops, livestock, apiculture and aquaculture. Although KRAV aquaculture standards contain specific parts for salmonids, perch and blue mussels, they can be applied broadly to production in freshwater, brackish water and marine environments and are suitable for carnivores, omnivores and herbivores in all their life cycle stages.

Between 2001 and 2005, KRAV was engaged in a project that led to the development of standards for capture fisheries, now an integral feature of KRAV standards. Several KRAV-certified aquaculture commodities are currently been produced, primarily in Europe including salmon, trout and Arctic char.74

65 Because standards that have been accepted through the IFOAM OGS (e.g. Bioland, Debio, National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia etc.) are very similar to the IFOAM Basic Standards and operate following IFOAM procedures, they are not included in this review as this would bias the analysis towards the IFOAM scheme.
66 Hagai Raban, Agrior, personal communication.
67 Jan-Widar Finden, Debio, personal communication.
68 Weena Krutngoen, Organic Agriculture Certification Thailand, personal communication.
69 IntraFish Media. 2006. HQ expands organic tilapia farming.
71 Naturland. 2003. Shrimp from certified organic aquaculture. Naturland e.V.: Information to Consumers. April 2003.
72 Peter Bridson, Aquaculture Program Manager of the Soil Association, personal communication.
73 Thomas Sporrer, SIPPO, personal communication.
74 Scialabba, N.E. & Hattam, C. 2002. Organic agriculture, environment and food safety. FAO Environment and Natural Resources Series No. 4.

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