Photo courtesy of the Organic Trade Association

After a decade of negotiations, today at Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore, MD, officials from the U.S. and Japan signed an organic equivalence arrangement between the two countries – the first U.S. organic equivalency arrangement in Asia, and the first-ever without organic standards exceptions.

Equivalence means that U.S. certified organic products may be sold in Japan labeled as organic, and vice versa. What does this mean to the organic industry? According to Laura Batcha, executive vice president of the Organic Trade Association, “This monumental agreement will further create jobs in the already growing U.S. organic sector, spark additional market growth, and be mutually beneficial to producers both in the United States and Japan and to consumers who choose organic products.”

It’s extremely notable that this agreement does not require either side to make exceptions or add rules to their requirements. In the equivalency agreement with the European Union, for instance, the U.S. and EU have different views on antibiotic use. Therefore, in order to sell a product as organic in each other’s countries, EU producers must prove that no antibiotics were administered to animals, and U.S. producers must show that the antibiotics tetracycline and streptomycin were not applied to apples or pears. The agreement with Japan, on the other hand, does not require either country’s producers to comply to additional standards, which makes things easier on the farmers and the organic certifiers.

From the Organic Trade Association’s web page distilling the details into mostly-real-person speak:

“Through a series of meetings and comprehensive on-site audits of both programs, both parties were able to ensure that while some of national program rules and approaches are not identical, they achieve an equivalent level of compliance, meet same objectives and maintain the high-quality standards important to the integrity of both programs.”

What’s your take? Are you hesitant despite the equivalency, or is it great news for the world’s organic industry and farmers? Leave your comments below.