International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements

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During the past century, industrial economies, including agriculture, were able to flourish because of two key resources- firstly, the abundant availability of natural resources to fuel the industrial systems and secondly, the natural sinks needed to absorb the wastes from these industrial systems. Both of these resources are now rapidly declining and economies are facing increasing pressure to review their industrial agricultural methods.

This has caused the emergence of the organic agriculture. Organic agriculture is essentially a sustainable agricultural system that aims at developing synergistic relationships between crops, livestock, micro-organisms and insects. In organic agriculture, the farm is viewed as an organism in itself that attempts to be self-sufficient and self renewing.

With the global emergence of organic agriculture, the need for organic certification became apparent. There grew a need for guarantees of the origin, identity and integrity of organic agricultural products. Also, with the rapid development of organic agricultural movements worldwide, there is call for bringing global organic agricultural movements onto a common platform. The International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) was set up to fulfil these needs.


[edit] About IFOAM

The International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) was established in 1972 to unite and promote the organic agricultural movement. It unites 750 member organisations in 108 countries and has its head office in Germany.

Apart from being a proponent of organic agriculture at the international level, IFOAM works with diverse organic movement across the globe. It networks beyond borders to share technical expertise. On a large scale it aims to facilitate the adoption of organic agriculture and develop organic markets.

[edit] The IFOAM Organic Guarantee System

Through its Organic Guarantee System (OGS), IFOAM aims to unite the organic world through common systems of standards and verification. Basically the Organic Guarantee System allows organic certifiers to become “IFOAM Accredited”. These accredited certifiers in turn certify organic operators who can then use the IFOAM seal on their products next to the logo of their IFOAM accredited certifier.

IFOAM Accreditation Program is the service within the Organic Guarantee System that is offered to organic certification bodies for IFOAM accreditation. The IFOAM accreditation is carried out by the International Organic Accreditation Service Inc (IOAS), which forms an important part of the Organic Guarantee System, but is an independent body, thus retaining the integrity of the accreditation process.

[edit] IFOAM Accreditation

Organic certification bodies are granted accreditation on the basis of compliance to the IFOAM Accreditation Criteria. The organic certification bodies must use certification standards that meet the IFOAM Basic Standards. Together, the IFOAM Accreditation Criteria and the IFOAM Basic Standards are called the IFOAM Norms.

The IFOAM Accreditation Criteria have been created bearing in mind the circumstances involved in certifying organic products and processes. They are based on international ISO principles for operation of certification bodies.

The IFOAM Basic Standards are considered as the baseline standards for organic operators for producing, maintaining, handling and processing organic produce. Certification bodies must see that operators that wish to display the IFOAM seal are in compliance with the IFOAM Basic Standards. The IFOAM Basic Standards have been set in accordance with the ISEAL Code of Good Practice for Setting Social and Environmental Standards.

The IFOAM Norms are available for purchase on IFOAM Bookstore

[edit] IFOAM Family of Standards

An important part of the Organic Guarantee System is the IFOAM Family of Standards. In order to harmonize different regional and national standards even if they vary from the IFOAM Basic Standards, interested bodies can apply for IFOAM assessment. IFOAM considers these different standards understanding economic, cultural, traditional, technical and climatic differences that are in operation. After evaluation and assessment, IFOAM may approve the regional or national standard. All approved regional/national standards together form the IFOAM Family of Standards.

[edit] References

  • Developing and Extending Sustainable Agriculture: A New Social Contract by Charles A. Francis, Raymond P. Poincelot and George W. Bird
  • What is organic farming?
  • FAQ about organic farming and certification
  • IFOAM Official Website