IFOAM Special announcement

IFOAM is looking for information on existing forms of group certification in Europe

IFOAM is currently implementing a pilot project to test group certification in Europe. Group certification for smallholder farmers in developing countries is already accepted by the EU, but farmers in Europe can not yet benefit from that. Therefore, pilot projects are set up in four locations: Turkey (IMO, Rapunzel, Cerala); France (Ecocert France, Nature et Progrès Tarn, Ecocert International), in Italy (ICEA, Biogargano) and in Spain (under construction). Coordination of the pilot project is done by Agro Eco.

In the context of this pilot project, IFOAM is looking for information relating to exiting forms of group certification in Europe. The group certification scheme, which implies that most group operators are inspected internally and not by an external certification body, is not yet allowed in developed countries. Nevertheless, there is some indication that some sorts of group certification schemes are currently being used in Europe. Some of these schemes might well be very different from the commonly known concept of group certification in the South, but nevertheless imply some kind of operators’ group approach and internal control systems. In some cases, an internal control system is run by farmers with a local organization, complemented by a 100% external inspection by an accredited certifier. This way, the certifier works faster and more efficiently, thereby reducing certification costs per farmer.

Whether or not these organic certification systems are formally linked to the third party certification system accepted under the EU regulation, they are of great interest to IFOAM in the context of the group certification pilot project. Some examples of such systems include the Nature & Progrès Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) in France, the group certification scheme implemented by some certification bodies in Spain, or group certification approaches to wild collection of organic products in Eastern Europe.

IFOAM would like to take an inventory of current systems in Europe that already make use of an internal control system for their group certification approaches, even if it is not yet complemented with a formal external certification (e.g. existing PGS are also of interest) . We therefore request IFOAM European members to send us any information they may have on existing internal control systems and group certification schemes implemented in the organic sector in Europe. If you know or have heard of such initiatives, please communicate the contact person, country, name of organization or any relevant information to Ferko Bodnar, coordinator of the IFOAM group certification pilot project in Europe at f.bodnar@agroeco.nl. This will be highly appreciated.