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Cablegate: Organic Agriculture: International Task Force Facilitating

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DE RUEHGV #1043/01 3311638
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 261638Z NOV 08
FM USMISSION GENEVA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7639
INFO RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC
RUEHRC/DEPT OF AGRICULTURE WASHINGTON DC
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 2880
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 6494
RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK 1964
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 3194
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 5821
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA 5658
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 6832
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 5743
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 1829
RUEHTC/AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE 5018

UNCLAS GENEVA 001043

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR IO/EDA and EEB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: UNCTAD ECON ETRD USDA USAID
SUBJECT: Organic Agriculture: International Task Force Facilitating
Trade

1. SUMMARY: The International Task Force on Harmonization and
Equivalence in Organic Agriculture (ITF), which was a successful
public-private partnership, held its final meeting on October 7,
2008, having completed its five-year project to develop a method for
comparing different organic standards and technical regulations
(Equitool) and a set of performance requirements for organic
certification (IROCB). The ITF estimates that use of these products
will increase trade in organic agriculture by USD 500,000 to 8
million per year among countries that conduct trade in organic
commodities. END SUMMARY.

International Task Force on Harmonization and Equivalence in Organic
Agriculture (ITF)
--------------------------------------------- -
2. On October 7, 2008, the International Task Force on
Harmonization and Equivalence in Organic Agriculture (ITF) held its
final meeting at which it launched the two products of the ITF's
five year work program: EquiTool, a tool for determining the
equivalency of organic production and processing standards among
various international standards, and IROCB - International
Requirements for Organic Certification Bodies, a set of performance
requirements for organic certification. Approximately 35 member
states, private companies and non-governmental organizations
attended the meeting as did the Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the European Commission, many
of which said they intended to use the two products.

3. The ITF was a cooperative effort by the United Nations
Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO), the International Federation of Organic
Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) and 29 member states including:
Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Japan, Kenya, Netherlands, Russia,
and the United States, and twenty-five civil society and other
private organizations. It was a five year project aimed to develop
a method for comparing different organic standards and technical
regulations, with a view to facilitating trade among countries with
comparable standards and regulations; and a set of performance
requirements for organic certification that gives countries
confidence in each others' certification process and a clear
understanding of the meaning and criteria for that certification.

4. To support Equitool, IROCB was developed as a baseline to
recognize and approve organic certification bodies based on
internationally agreed performance requirements. UNCTAD stated that
these tools should be used by private and public sector
decision-makers to develop methodological frameworks for
establishing equivalence and recognition among organic standards.

5. Equitool and IROCB are available for download through the links
provided below. These materials are not copyrighted so they can be
freely utilized and disseminated among nations and organic trade
organizations.

Equitool- http://www.unctad.org/trade%5Fenv/itf%2Dorgan ic/
meetings/itf8/ITF_EquiTool_finaldraft_080915d b2.pdf

IROCB - http://www.unctad.org/trade%5Fenv/itf%2Dorgan ic/
meetings/itf8/IROCB_0809%20.pdf

6. Speakers at the October 7 ITF meeting said the Western Pacific
and East African regions would benefit most from a regional organic
standard. Thailand plans to use Equitool and IROCB as a benchmark
exercise, and an Australian private company plans to approach its
government with a partnership proposal based upon these tools. The
European Commission stated it would reference these tools, and
possibly incorporate them into its own procedures and guidelines.
According to Sophie Twarog, the UNCTAD economist who spear-headed
the task force, new European Union regulations are much more
trade-friendly than the previous ones because they have taken the
ITF recommendations on board.

7. UNCTAD's Twarog also suggested that USDA should use both tools
to facilitate its dealings with foreign-produced organic products.
(Comment from USDA: While USDA is assessing the tools and may find
them useful in some circumstances, there is no current plan to
adjust US import or equivalence procedures for organic products.
Note that US import procedures for organic products are already

considered among the most flexible and trade-friendly of the major
importing countries. End comment.)

8. UNCTAD SYG Supachai said the use of Equitool and IROCB will help
countries overcome the challenges of organic trade and thereby help
alleviate the world food crisis. At a recent meeting of "Organic
Asia," the tools were well received and representatives from the
region expressed interest in developing a harmonized "Asian" organic
standard, or a multi-lateral equivalency agreement based on Equitool
and IROCB. On the margins of the October 7 meeting, the OECD
representative praised the ITF's two tools and UNCTAD's successful
work with UNEP developing an East African Organic Standard as some
of the best, most practical cooperative exercises in the UN system.

Next Steps
----------
9. With completion of the ITF's two five-year projects, the ITF has
depleted its funds. If donors provide additional funding, the ITF
said its virtual network of cooperating organizations and personnel
could continue to exist, help nations utilize Equitool and IROCB,
and serve as a forum for sharing experiences. The ITF opined that
through international peer pressure, the creation of websites and
other information dissemination platforms, Equitool and IROCB can
raise awareness of organic trade and facilitate such trade. UNCTAD
announced that within its existing resources to the extent possible,
it would assist nations and the private sector involved in organic
activities to implement Equitool and IROCB within their respective
regulatory frameworks.

COMMENT
-------
10. International organic trade has a multitude of standards and
regulations that can create certification and trade barriers for
producers and exporters wishing to sell in different markets. These
barriers can reduce access to the benefits of organic agriculture
for resource-poor farmers in developing countries and cause
consumers to pay higher prices for a limited product supply.
EquiTool and IROCB could facilitate participation by farmers in
developing countries in organic agriculture and its trade.
TICHENOR#

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