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EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement - Organics Q&A

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This brief article aims to answer some questions about the certification, labelling and trading of organic food products following the provisional coming into force of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) on 1 January 2021.

Can organic products from GB be exported to the EU?

Yes. Under the TCA, the EU recognises that the UK’s laws on organic production and certification are equivalent to EU law (in practice, the UK has brought over the EU regulations into UK law). With this “equivalence” GB-certified organic products can be exported to the EU and labelled as organic until 31 December 2023. The EU logo can continue to be used on the product, and the certification body codes remain the same as before (GB-ORG-XX). The difference now is that if the product was produced in GB and is exported to the EU (or N.I.) the label will need to include both the EU’s and the UK’s statement of origin.

With a new EU regulation on organic production and labelling coming into force on 1 January 2022, this UK/EU equivalence will be reviewed by 31 December 2023 to ensure the UK continues to meet the new EU standards.

The equivalence agreed in the TCA is a vital step for the sector, building on the recognition of the UK’s organic certification bodies by the EU Commission in early December; that recognition would have ensured continued trade in organic products beyond 1 January 2021, for 12 months, but with additional bureaucracy (certificates of inspection having to be issued, use of a different certification body code on labels) versus what is required under formal equivalence.

Can our organic standard diverge from those of the EU?

Technically, yes – they can. Although we brought current EU rules over onto our statute books on 31 December, the Agriculture Act 2020 includes powers to ensure we can update our organic legislation after 1 January and create new legislation. However, in practice, it is difficult to see how GB can operate to lower standards than those of the EU. That would put our equivalence, and the ability to sell our GB-certified organic products as organic in the EU, at risk.

Are UK organic standards still deemed to be equivalent in the US?

There is an EU/US ‘equivalency’ agreement in place, by which the US broadly recognises that products certified as organic in the EU are equivalent to organic products in the US and vice-versa. That enables EU organic products to be marketed in the US as organic without double certification.

This equivalency agreement is being rolled over so that it will apply after the transition period to GB goods which are certified to EU organic standards. So, sales of high-value organic cheeses and other organic products in the US can continue.

The EU has equivalency agreements with 12 other countries other than the US; these are also being rolled over and trade in organic products can continue as before.

For further information, please contact Roythornes' Food and Drink team.