United States & Japan sign organic equivalence deal

The first organic equivalence agreement made in Asia by the United States and the first without organic standards exceptions was signed on September 26 between the U.S. and Japan at All Things Organic, Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore.

Present at the announcement were Mr. Satoshi Kunii, director, Labeling Standards Division, and Mr. Takuro Mukae, associate director, Sanitary and Phytosanitary Affairs, of Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries (MAFF) for Japan, and administrator Anne Alonzo of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service and Ambassador Isi Siddiqui of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative for the United States.

U.S. officials noted the organic equivalence agreement will reopen the important Japanese consumer market for U.S. organic producers of all sizes and create jobs and opportunity for the U.S. organic food and farming sector.

“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 U.S. and Japan and to consumers who choose organic products,” said Laura Batcha, executive vice president of the U.S. Organic Trade Association.

Assessments conducted in Japan and the U.S. leading up to the signing found organic management, accreditation, certification and enforcement programs are in place in both countries, and conform to each other’s respective programs.

Certified organic products as of January 1, 2014 can move freely between the United States and Japan. Under the agreement, MAFF will recognize USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) as equivalent to the Japanese Agricultural Standards (JAS) and the MAFF Organic Program, and will allow products produced and certified as meeting USDA’s NOP standards to be marketed as organic in Japan. Likewise, the U. S. will allow Japanese products produced and certified under the JAS Organic Program to be marketed as organic in the U.S. Both countries will require that the accredited certifier must be identified on the product label.

Ms Batcha noted that OTA and the U.S. organic industry advised, advocated for, and facilitated progress towards this historic arrangement.

In June 2009, the U.S. and Canada signed the first equivalency agreement in the world for the organic industry, followed with an organic equivalency agreement signed by the U.S. and EU in February 2012, effective June 12, 2012.