Alliance for Organic Integrity – Strengthening organic assurance globally

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The Alliance Sponsors Pre-NOSB meeting, Atlanta, USA

April 2023
The Alliance was pleased to partially sponsor the recent US-based National Organic Coalition, “Pre-NOSB” meeting held in Atlanta, USA on April 24th. This event has been held on the day before the USDA/NOSB meetings for several decades and serves as opportunity for the US organic community to discuss priorities for the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and to share policy positions and critical concerns.

The Alliance also served on a panel with USDA/NOP staff and a Kentucky Dept. Agricultural representative, who serves as Kentucky’s organic certifier. The panel focused on strengthening organic integrity and the challenges of implementation of the new USDA Strengthening Organic Enforcement Rule. The Alliance also raised concerns about the need for a much more formalized training program for new inspectors (including the development of independent international credentialing system), concerns about widening differences in approaches to Grower Groups and called for greater harmonization of best practices between US and EU organic schemes.

The Alliance Welcomes OMRI & AöL as Partners

April 2023 The Alliance is pleased to welcome the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) as a new Partner. Based in the USA, OMRI develops clear information and guidance about materials/inputs so that producers know which products are appropriate for organic operations. Learn more about OMRI here.

The Alliance also welcomes The Assoziation ökologischer Lebensmittelhersteller e.V. (AöL) as a new Partner. The AöL is a network of 130 ecologically oriented companies in the food industry, active in the German-speaking countries of Europe. The aim of the association is to strengthen the members economically through cooperation and to represent their interests politically. Learn more about AöL here.

The Alliance presents the Organic Observatory at Organic Cotton conference, Indore.

March 2023 – Due to the recent integrity concerns over organic cotton certification in India the Alliance attended the recent Global Organic Textile Standards / Organic Cotton Accelerator / International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (GOTS/OCA/IFOAM) conference at Indore. Robin Fransella, the Alliance’s Organic Observatory Programme Manager attended a closed meeting organised by GOTS and IFOAM to address issues within the supply chain. We were delighted to be able to present the Alliance’s aim to help organic operators alongside long term partners at Indore, a location so relevant to the entire history of organic farming as it is where Sir Albert Howard learned about the nurture of soil humus from local farmers.

This meeting highlighted that the organic cotton traders dealing in substantial quantities are concerned not only about being undercut by fraudulently labelled non-organic products but by the long term good name of organic production being harmed by such practices.

 

A field trip to visit an organic farm and nursery organised by OCA showed that a practical and systematic approach to organic production is taken by Indian organic farmers. It was also apparent that the cooperative system under which this production operates is particularly beneficial for the empowerment of women, who will often take a lead in production of on-farm inputs and nursery gardening.

 

The Alliance are planning to undertake a project to support the organic cotton industry in addressing these issues through use of the Organic Observatory and will be working closely with partners on achieving this. With cotton being the crop that uses more pesticides than any other when produced non-organically the work of protecting organic production is vital. This is the case not only for the overall supply chain that relies on a supply of organic raw-material but for the thousands of farmers whose families health, income and well-being has been improved by a move to organic production.

The Alliance for Organic Integrity and Biocertificacion SL (BSL) are pleased to announce the re-launch of the highly respected The Organic Standard journal at Biofach 2023 in Nuremberg, Germany.

To receive your first free issue, subscribe to the Alliance’s e-newsletter.

Sign-ups to annual subscriptions can be made via The Organic Standard Website  www.organicstandard.com.

For more information contact info@alliancefororganicintegrity.bio

The Organic Standard online journal will provide the organic community with much needed news, analysis, insight and guidance on global organic regulatory, standards and control issues.

 

The relaunched 1st edition of The Organic Standard is free to previous subscribers or those who sign-up to receive The Alliance for Organic Integrity’s e-newsletter (sign-up at www.alliancefororganicintegrity.bio). Access to subsequent issues will require an annual subscription for a fee of €260 / $270 for 6 issues, subscriptions can be made online via The Organic Standard website www.organicstandard.com.

 

The Alliance for Organic Integrity and BSL announced their partnership to relaunch The Organic Standard at the end of 2022. The organisations recognized the gap for an information resource that reports on timely issues affecting organic integrity and the organic control community: The Organic Standard aims to fill this gap, providing the information needed to help Strengthen Organic Assurance, Globally.

 

Francis Blake, President of The Alliance said “as our burgeoning market continues to break new ground we’re so pleased to be relaunching The Organic Standard, to support consistent, rigorous and effective organic standards, certification and regulation across the globe, for the benefit of the organic community and of consumers”.

 

Nuria Alonso, of BSL and Chief Editor of The Organic Standard said “I’ve been involved in TOS almost from the beginning, It has meant, most of the last two decades keeping an eye out for news that might be of interest to TOS readers. Now, after the difficulties of the last couple of years, it is great to have found such a reliable and experienced partner as The Alliance for Organic Integrity to relaunch the publication and continue to serve the organic community.”

 

The Organic Standard was founded in 2000 by Grolink. The publication was taken over by Biocertification SL in 2013, but was temporarily suspended in 2020 in part due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Alliance for Organic Integrity and Biocertification SL have established a partnership to revitalize and relaunch the publication in February 2023.

AFI conference ‘Residues in organic production, sufficient indicators for fraud?’ 

 

Brussels, 09 February 2023 – The Alliance has sponsored a multistakeholder event run by its partner The Anti Fraud Initiative (AFI).

 

The event brought together multistakeholders – from organic trade, CBs, laboratories, sector organisations and representatives of the European Parliament, some member state COP members, the EU Commission – to discuss the difficulties the organic sector is facing with the implementation of articles 28 and 29 of the Regulation (EU) 2018/848. In particular, the value of residue testing for detecting the use of unauthorised substances, the required investigation and evaluating the effectiveness of operators’ precautionary measures.

 

Some companies explained how often findings, irrelevant to the organic authenticity question are causing the trade to be delayed and disrupted, the resources it takes, the lack of harmonisation among member states. A representative from a laboratory explained the limitations of sampling, testing protocol and analyse variability. 

 

The Commission confirmed it is not pursuing residue free organic products. Residues need some investigation and precautionary measures must be in place to debunk the suspicion of fraud. Terms like Proportionate and Substantiated were discussed. There was consensus was that much more information exchange needed to happen, to arrive at a good implementation of the regulation, and harmonisation throughout the Union by 2025.  

 

The presentation from the event will be available shortly on the AFI’s www.organic-integrity.org website.

 

A further report on the event will be available in the next issue of The Organic Standard.

The Alliance presents at Biofach 2022: Identifying & Avoiding Fraud via The Organic Observatory.

 

July 2022 – The Alliance presented the Organic Supply Chain Observatory at Biofach’s 2022 “Summer Edition” with a talk on Enabling Organic Traders to Identify and Avoid Fraud in the Supply Chain.

Interest was shown in the project with a good level of attendance. This possibly highlights the fact that some major fraud cases have appeared in the non-specialist news recently and concerns over integrity are at a higher level. With authorities in major importing regions acting to require tightened measures where fraudulent product is an issue the need for the organic trade to protect itself effectively and undertake due-diligence without expending excessive resource.

The presentation can be viewed here as a PDF, attendees at Biofach can view a video of the actual event via the Talque App.

To find out more about The Organic Observatory or to get involved, contact obs@aoi.bio.

The Alliance builds capacity in organic control in Sri Lanka.

 

July 2022 – The Alliance was contracted by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH to build capacity* in organic control for Sri Lankan officials involved in organic standards and policy. 

A four-day online training programme was delivered covering topics including: inputs, private standards (textiles and cosmetics), farm inspections and management plans, group certification, residues and sampling, risk analysis, processing and trade and mass balance/traceability.

30 attendees took part the training, including representatives from the Sri Lanka Export Development Board (EDB) and its National Organic Control Unit (NOCU), Sri Lanka Standards Institute (SLSI) and the Sri Lanka Accreditation Board (SLAB).  See below an example slide of an interactive activity conducted during the training, using the app ‘SLIDO’ to gather feedback from participants.

Mr K A Anil, Senior Deputy Director at SLSI said “The training programme was outstanding; the content, the way of teaching and presentations. All the tutors demonstrated competency. The programme was very advantageous for our activities in organic certification”. 

To find out about more about training for your organization, please contact info@alliancefororganicintegrity.bio

* The capacity-building programme is conducted as part of the “‘Support to Small and Medium Enterprises in the Organic Agriculture Sector’ Programme”, the multi-donor action, jointly co-financed by the European Union (EU) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The objective of the programme is to contribute to a more sustainable, diversified, market-oriented and inclusive agriculture sector in Sri Lanka. 

The Alliance Appoints New Coordinator.

 

20 April 2022 – The Alliance is pleased to welcome Georgina Rose Thomas (BA, MSc) as Coordinator, supporting the five-strong Board of Directors to deliver the objectives of the Alliance.

Georgina has been involved in organic and fair supply chains for over 15 years with experience in auditing, training, project management and business development.

Previously, she managed the textiles scheme at Soil Association Certification where she successfully grew the sector and maintained accreditation. An experienced inspector, Georgina has audited GOTS organic and Fairtrade supply chains. She has also consulted for brands and auditors helping to improve their quality management systems.

Georgina said “after taking leave to raise my young family I’m thrilled to be back in the organic community working for AOI”.

“Having known Georgina from my time at the Soil Association, I’m particularly delighted that she is joining the Alliance as Coordinator. Her skills and experience are a perfect fit for our needs and will, I’m sure, help AOI implement its strategy to improve integrity in the worldwide organic market.” said Francis Blake, AOI President.

Alliance welcomes Prof. Gabrela Soto to its Board.

 

January 2022 – We are delighted to announce that Professor Gabriela Soto has joined the Board of AOI, which brings it to its full complement of five members.  Gabi is well known to many in the organic movement for her work both internationally (stints on the boards of IFOAM-OI, IOAS and IOIA), and in her home country of Costa Rica where she has been at the heart of organic developments for over 20 years.  She’s currently president of the EcoLOGICA certification agency, and also a professor at the University of Costa Rica.

“With her wide experience, deep knowledge and clear commitment, Gabi is the perfect addition to our Board, and we are so pleased she accepted our invitation”, said Francis Blake, AOI President.  

Professor Soto said, “I very much look forward to working with old friends on the critical issues of organic integrity, which, with the organic market growing strongly, is more important than ever”.

Training completed for Korean inspectors and certifiers

 

Back last year, AOI was contracted by Isidor Sustainability Research Institute in South Korea to deliver training on ISO 17065 to S Korean inspectors and certifiers, at the request of the Korean Accreditation Board. The Alliance brought in Tom Nizet to deliver the training, supported by AOI’s Francis Blake, and it took place over four days in December 2021. Tom was certification manager for the Belgian certifier, Certisys, for 14 years and since then has set up Authent Consultancy, providing technical support and training, and specialising in organic quality systems. Francis was certification director and then standards director for the UK Soil Association, and was founding president of IFOAM Organics Europe.

The course covered all aspects of ISO 17065, together with numerous examples of how it translated into the control system for organic food and farming. 31 inspectors and certification personnel attended the course and each received a certificate to denote their Continuing Professional Development.

If you want to find out about training for your organization from the Alliance, please contact info@alliancefororganicintegrity.bio

Alliance Observatory Program Manager welcomed

 

The Alliance welcomes Robin Fransella as Program Manager of the Alliance Organic Supply Chain Observatory project.

A highly qualified Project Manager with extensive experience in the organic community, Robin had previously led the International Section of the Organic Team at UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and represented the UK in the EU and at the UN on organic legislation. He was also a trainer for the EU and was involved in trade negotiations with India and USA. Thereafter, he worked for Defra on implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in the UK, providing guidance on the greening agenda for land use and undertaking a review of the UK’s land mapping, a role that also included substantial program and project management.

Robin has recently become a Master of Law (Public International Environmental Law) from Utrecht University.

Earlier in his career, Robin was in the IT Division of the then Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF), as part of the team writing the program for UK implementation of the CAP.

Bo Van Elzakker, AOI Board Member and head of the Observatory Project, expressed his pleasure in having Robin join the organization. “We very much welcome Robin joining us to manage this crucial project of the Alliance, bringing his prodigious experience from both inside and outside organic, and which provides an ideal foundation for the Observatory”.

Francis Blake, President of the Alliance, added, “the Observatory aims to be a global multi-stakeholder initiative which seeks to identify, and thereby helps to rectify, systemic weaknesses or ‘hotspots’ in the organic supply chain.  Both we and Robin look forward to working with our Partners and others to deliver this objective”.

Read more about the Alliance Observatory project here.

For more information, please contact:

– Bo van Elzakker on b.vanelzakker@agroeco.net or +31 6 50 61 52 25

– Robin Fransella on observatory@alliancefororganicintegrity.bio or +31 6 12 45 70 10

– Francis Blake on blake@alliancefororganicintegrity.bio or +44 7973 955429

The Alliance for Organic Integrity’s mission is to improve the quality of organic claims through education on best certification and accreditation practices, to develop tools for preventing fraud and to share these tools and educational components with all those involved, so as to enhance trust in the organic guarantee system. As the organic market is international in nature, this requires an international effort – we work with partners to promote these solutions and to work towards implementing the necessary changes.

Organic World Congress 2021 

 

September 2021 –  Francis Blake, Alliance President gave a presentation “Growing Organic Trust – Improving Conformity Assessment in Organic Production Systems.”

For the full presentation please click here.

For information on the IFOAM Organic World Congress please click here.

February 2021 Presentation

 

The Alliance was featured in two sessions of Biofach’s e-Special Congress on 17-19 February.

First was organised by Alliance Partner, Organic Services, titled ‘Different perspectives on organic integrity and fraud prevention…’. The seminar discussed fraud and fraud prevention from various perspectives, including legal issues, whistle blowing, the anatomy of fraud, data intelligence, mass balancing, geodata, and others.

Alliance President Francis Blake kicked off the session with a presentation on ‘Organic Integrity Mapping.’ This was a whistle-stop tour of the integrity landscape, looking at who does what and where are the gaps that need addressing. Following presentations were given by Dr John Spink of the Food Fraud Prevention Thinktank, Peter Whelan of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, Jochen Kleboth of Intact GmbH, and finally Gerald Herrmann of Organic Services GmbH.

On the last day of the Special Congress, Bo van Elzakker of Agro Eco, AFI, AOI discussed the Grower Group Certification.

For more information on the other presentations, please contact Gerald Hermann at Organic Services.

Staffing Update

 

November 2020

The Alliance for Organic Integrity (AOI or the Alliance) was founded in 2019 by IOAS to foster and develop the integrity of the international organic guarantee system in areas that go beyond accreditation which is the sole focus of IOAS. It is registered in th USA as a 501.c.3 non-profit
organisation and has been given a founding grant by IOAS.

A five-strong Board of Directors manages and directs the Alliance. Two of these are appointed by IOAS. IFOAM-Organics International has been invited to nominate a third Board member. We are proud that both organisations are recognised as Founding Partners.

The Alliance is a start up, still finding its feet, still establishing its structures and its key activities in what is a fast developing sector, and amid the added complications of the Covid pandemic. As such we are continuing to work on developing the most appropriate staffing arrangements to move beyond the voluntary phase of a new organisation towards action-centred expansion.

We were lucky that Jan Deane, former Executive Director (Operations) of IOAS, was available to take the administrative reins from our founding to the summer of 2020. She passed the baton on to Konrad Hauptfleisch, former Academy and Programs Manager at IFOAM-OI, for a temporary contract until the end of the year.

We are now seeking to appoint a more permanent Coordinator for the organisation, as well as Project Managers for our first two projects. Please watch this space…

September 2020 Workshop

 

For some time now, the Alliance for Organic Integrity has been busy in the background, both with getting its own structures and systems in place, and with doing groundwork in a few of its key identified work areas. Like so many others, the COVID-19 crisis has affected our work in the recent months. In September, the time came for us to not only introduce you to the new team members and recent developments, but also to actively seek your input in the key work areas of the Alliance. We value your opinions and suggestions, as these are critical in achieving our goal of ‘strengthening organic assurance globally’. To this end, we held a short series of virtual workshops over 21 and 22 September 2020, covering the following topics:
• Introducing the Alliance
• Opportunities to harmonize EU and US/NOP Grower Group rules (AOI Project Area 1)
• Opportunities to harmonize EU and US/NOP organic import rules (AOI Project Area 1)
• Fraud Hotline & hotspots (AOI Project Area 3);
• Mapping the way forward for the Alliance and its network

Please click here for the complete presentation covering the two days, together with a selection of responses to the questions raised during sessions. 

If you’d like to know more, please contact info@alliancefororganicintegrity.bio for more information.

Paula Aberasturi joins Alliance Board

 

June 2020 – We are delighted to announce the appointment of Paula Aberasturi to the Alliance Board, which brings the Board to its full complement of 5 members. Paula lives in the Philippines and is an organic farmer and qualified lawyer. She has been intimately involved in the development of the organic and Slow Food movements in the Philippines at both grass roots and government level over the last 10 years. Paula is also an alumna of IFOAM’s Organic Leadership Masters Program.

“We are so pleased that Paula is joining the Alliance Board,” said Francis Blake, President. “She brings a completely different perspective to the table, and we look forward to benefiting from both her Asian experience and her legal expertise as we get stuck into working on issues of integrity in the global organic market.”

Paula also intimated her delight in joining the Alliance Board, saying that “I am glad I am in great company, and I know I will be learning much more about the organization and its objectives, as we push for its goals and objectives.”