Guarantee Systems

Guarantee Systems

International Task Force on Harmonization and Equivalence in Organic Agriculture

The organic market is confronted with hundreds of private sector standards and governmental regulations, two international standards for organic agriculture - the Codex Alimentarius Commission Guidelines and IFOAM Basic Standards - and many certification and accreditation systems.  Mutual recognition and equivalency among the systems is extremely limited.  The multitude of standards, certification requirements and regulations are considered to be a major obstacle for continuous development of the organic sector, especially for producers in developing countries. 

IFOAM, FAO and UNCTAD joined forces to search for solutions to this problem and formed the International Task Force on Harmonization and Equivalence in Organic Agriculture (ITF). The ITF consisted of individuals working in government agencies, inter-governmental agencies, and civil society and other private sector organizations involved in organic agriculture regulation, standardization, accreditation, certification and trade.  These individuals worked together from 2003 to 2008 in an open-ended platform for dialogue among public and private stakeholders. The goal of the ITF was to address and seek solutions to trade barriers arising from the many different standards, technical regulations and certification requirements that function in the organic sector, and enable developing countries to have more access to organic trade.  

The ITF focused on opportunities for harmonization, equivalence, recognition and other forms of cooperation within and between government and private organic guarantee systems. Its formal results include technical studies and briefing papers, recommendations and chiefly, tools providing solutions:

  • The first tool, International Requirements for Organic Certification Bodies (IROCB), is an international reference norm that can be used by governments and private accreditation and certification bodies as a means of accepting certification of organic products outside of their own system. 
  • The second tool, Guide for Assessing Equivalence of Organic Standards and Technical Regulations (EquiTool) is a set of guidelines, which include both procedures and criteria that can be applied for deciding when a standard applicable in one region of the world is equivalent to a standard applicable in another region.

 This webpage features key documents and outcomes of the ITF. All ITF publications and papers are available in book form and in electronic format from the ITF Website.

The ITF project was completed in 2008; the application of the ITF results is now being implemented through a new project seeking to facilitate Global Organic Market Access (GOMA).