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Organic standards review - update from the Standards Team

Organic standards review

We’re updating our organic standards to make them as straightforward, practical and transparent as possible.

We want our standards to have the maximum impact with the minimum hassle for licensees.

  • We will make the standards easier to understand and cut paperwork by ensuring all the different aspects of an issue are brought together in one clear standard or chapter.
  • We will offer farmers and other businesses more freedom to develop new and better ways to meet the requirements. The standards will only say what is required, not how to achieve it – which will be moved into guidance.
  • We will explain the difference our additional organic standards make in the world and ensure the benefits are significant. We will spell out the purpose of each standard, so they are transparent to consumers, farmers and food businesses.

Why review our organic standards?

By making these changes, our updated standards will be clearer and more practical for farmers and food businesses to follow, and so have a bigger impact on the ground.

The standards will also be more transparent and clearer to the public. A clearer understanding of the beneficial impacts of organic production, and what our higher standards achieve, will enable us and others to talk more compellingly than ever about the benefits, building confidence, trust and interest in organic.

What’s happening and when?

  • A public consultation on our proposed new aquaculture standards took place in July and August 2015. The new organic aquaculture standards are on our standards webpage.
  • A public consultation on our proposed new organic food and drink standards took place from 30th November 2015 – 1st February 2016. The new standards will be published in 2017.
  • We will consult on our proposed new farming and growing standards in summer 2016. The new standards will be published in 2017.
  • All licensees will have a suitable grace period to adapt to any new standards.

How can I get involved?

If you’d like to us to let you know when we launch our next consultation, email consultation@soilassociation.org, call us on 0117 314 5178 or write to us at Standards Team, Soil Association, Spear House, 51 Victoria Street Bristol BS1 6AD.

What’s wrong with the current standards?

There’s always room for improvement! Our current standards don’t say whether something is required by EU law or is a higher requirement for products carrying the Soil Association symbol. Where businesses licensed to Soil Association standards need to go beyond the law, it is fair and helpful to be clear about the difference that makes to our environment and the welfare of animals.

How are Soil Association standards different?

All organic food comes from trusted sources and meets strict standards laid down in European law which give consumers confidence in the food they buy. Organic food with the Soil Association’s symbol has been certified to higher standards where our expert standards committees have concluded this is necessary. For example, no system of farming requires higher levels of animal welfare than organic farms working to Soil Association standards.

Soil Association Certification has been certifying organic food since 1973, and now works with over 4,500 farms and businesses worldwide. We’ve led the way in setting organic standards and have gone further than any other UK organic standards setter to make sure the standards we publish are clear. Nevertheless, they have evolved over decades and now run to hundreds of pages. So they could be even clearer, simpler and have greater impact.