Organic Standards Review
Organic Standards Review
The Soil Association has recently completed a review of our organic standards to ensure they are as straightforward, transparent and clear as possible for our licensees to use and for the public to understand.
And, most importantly, that what we ask our licensees to do makes a big difference to our natural world, the quality of life for farm animals and the organic food we eat.
We believe these standards are the right standards for organic farming and food in the UK. They are backed by evidence and wide consultation. We have a strong mandate from the public, farmers and the food industry, who have helped to shape the standards and the vision for what they can achieve for the environment, animals and people.
See our new blog from Helen Browning which explains the importance of Soil Association organic standards.
Updated Organic Standards
The reviewed standards came in to effect for Soil Association licensees on the 7th May 2019.Read now
Do you have a question about our revised standards?
Browse our frequently asked questions and answers below.
What are the main changes for licensees?
- A new, user friendly format.
- Standards which focus on the goal rather than how you get there. Licensees now have more freedom to develop new and better ways to meet the standards.
- Helpful guidance on how you can meet each standard.
- Slimmed-down standards documents which avoid repetition. For example, nine previous GM standards are now covered in a single, comprehensive standard.
- Clear indication of which standards are legal requirements, and which are Soil Association Higher Standards.
- We have reviewed the evidence behind each standard and have confidence in their importance and potential for impact.
- New ‘Why’ boxes explain the rationale for each Soil Association Higher Standard. These go further than regulatory requirements on key areas such as animal welfare, conserving the environment, safeguarding antibiotics and protecting the interests of organic consumers.
- 5 new Soil Association Higher Standards:
1. Requiring natural cover on the poultry range
2. Banning the use of the critically important antibiotic Colistin
3. Prohibiting the use of BPA in packaging materials
4. Requiring recorded CCTV in abattoirs
5. Clearer permitted methods of emergency killing in abattoirs
- We have harmonised many of our standards with the EU Organic Regulation in areas where the Regulation has improved, or where new evidence suggests the requirements of the EU Organic Regulation are sufficient. These changes were launched in June 2018.
- References to non-organic legislation where this now covers the requirements.
- Suitable lead-in periods for Soil Association Cert licensees to adapt to the updates.
Why does Soil Association have higher standards?
The Soil Association wants to ensure the highest possible standards of animal welfare, environmental and wildlife protection, so we have our own higher – or stricter – standards in key areas. The standards put our principles into practice and are at the heart of our work.
Is there a connection with Brexit?
No. We started to review our standards long before Brexit negotiations started. However, we are ready to make any changes needed to respond to new legal or policy outcomes related to Brexit. To find out more about our approach to Brexit click here.
Which sectors are affected?
Our standards review covered all areas which are governed by the EU organic regulation: agriculture, aquaculture, processing and horticulture. Our standards in each of these areas are overseen by our independent Standards Board made up of industry experts and lay members, and by sector-specific committees who supported the standards review.
At a later date, we will be reviewing woodland, deer, poultry breeding, rearing and hatchery standards. For our licensees who produce watercress, we will be conducting a special focussed consultation exercise to help us review our standards for watercress. This is because of the small number of organic producers and the highly specialised nature of watercress production.
What about the Equivalence Annex, which contains your sourcing requirements?
We have developed a new annex called Sourcing Organic Ingredients. This replaces the current Equivalence Annex. If you are a processor, please familiarise yourself with the updated requirements. The requirements remain similar to those of the Equivalence Annex - the main organic ingredients requiring extra checks are still meat, egg, fish and other aquaculture animal products. For us to carry out these checks on organic ingredients you currently source, we will request updated information from certifiers when annual checks are due, and we will inform you if you need to take any action. In order for us to make these checks on any new organic ingredients or suppliers you are using or wish to use, you will need to contact us where sourcing requirements apply. Find out more about how The Soil Association is working to drive change across the organic sector through our better sourcing commitments here.
What about issues that aren’t covered?
We’d love our standards to be able to tackle all of the many and varied issues that touch upon our sector, but we have to be selective and focus on those where our standards are likely to have the biggest impact, and also look to other creative solutions beyond standards to tackle as much as we can. We work closely with the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM – Organic International), and IFOAM EU, to influence positive changes to the EU Organic Regulation, and promote best practice in organic standard setting internationally through the Leading Organic Alliance (LOA). Soil Association is also involved in a number of alliances with other NGOs both within the UK and internationally. Together we advise influential decision-makers on our top priorities for food, farming, land use and the natural environment. To complement our campaigns Soil Association also champions farmer-led research through our Innovative Farmers programme and our Food for Life programme makes good food the easy choice in UK schools, hospitals and care homes.
I’ve heard that a new EU Organic Regulation was published last year. Is there a connection between these two announcements?
The Soil Association standards review has taken place entirely independently from the review of the EU Organic Regulation, which happened in parallel. There is no connection between these two announcements. Furthermore, the publication of a new EU Organic Regulation for organic food and farming has no effect on the updates to Soil Association organic standards.
The reasons for this are that:
1) The new EU Regulation won’t come into force until 2021, and
2) The EU regulation is not yet complete – the regulation was been published by the EU in June 2018 is a framework text, the detailed rules for which will not be finalised until the middle of 2020.
In this section...
This has been an extremely thorough, evidence-based review. Our expert committees and consultations have ensured the updated standards are practical for our licensees and encourage them to innovate, and that where we are more demanding than the regulations, that this is justified in terms of enhanced impacts on animal welfare and the environment.Dr Benjamin Dent Chair of Soil Association Standards Board