In 2019 the Alliance for Organic Integrity was established with the ultimate goal of ensuring, protecting and enhancing the quality and integrity of the organic guarantee being provided to consumers. It arose out of our sister organisation IOAS’ 20th Anniversary Seminar, ‘Organic Inspection and Certification 2025’, which took place in India in November 2017. This brought together key actors from the organic sector to explore and discuss the status of organic inspection and certification, with the aim of identifying deficiencies and developing an action plan to help tackle them. With seed funding from IOAS, a founding board was appointed to develop the Alliance’s mission, its organizational structure including incorporation in the USA as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit (charity), and to set out its future workplan, budget and finances.
Francis Blake, President / Director, has a BSc (Hons) in Agricultural and Forest Sciences (MA). After farming organically for 10 years, and publishing a book, ‘Organic farming and growing – a guide to management’, he joined the Soil Association (www.soilassociation.org) and had leading roles in its certification and standards for over 30 years. During this time he was instrumental in developing common international organic standards for textiles (www.global-standard.org) and cosmetics (www.cosmos-standard.org), working with partner organizations. He was also founding president of the IFOAM EU Group (www.ifoam-eu.org). He is currently a semi-retired, occasional consultant and is also on the board of IOAS.
Bo Van Elzakker, Treasurer/Secretary/Director, is director of the Agro Eco – Louis Bolk Institute, an independent advisory research development organization active mainly in West Africa. He has more than 30 years of experience in all aspects of organic agriculture: primary production, producer organization, access to inputs, value chain development, conversion & business planning, marketing, and ensuring organic integrity. He is chairman of the Accreditation Committee of ASI which is accrediting certification bodies to a variety of voluntary standards like MSC, FSC, ASC and RSPO. He is one of the initiators of the Anti-Fraud Initiative4, learning from past fraud cases, organizing multi-stakeholder workshops to improve the integrity of organic certification, and doing due diligence audits of certification bodies and for organic buyers.
Professor Gabriela Soto, Director, is an agronomist with an MSc. in Soil Ecology (University of Virginia, USA). She has dedicated her professional life to the development of the organic sector in Costa Rica and internationally, as former president of the Organic Farmers Association (ANAO), and President and Director of ANAO’s Certification Agency EcoLOGICA, certifying organic producers in Costa Rica and abroad for 22 years. Gabriela is also a researcher and professor at the University of Costa Rica where she teaches Agroecology. She is on the Board of the National Organic Movement (MAOCO), and represents the Certification Agencies in the National Commission in her country. She is also a Board Member of TIPI and IFOAM Ambassador.
J Michael Sligh, Director, is a former Policy Director for Rural Advancement Foundation International, where he managed policy, research and education regarding agricultural best practices for organic, agro-biodiversity, identity preserved and a range of food justice and other value-added food labelling, policy and marketing issues. Prior to this, he served two years in agricultural development work in the Windward Islands. Michael has more than 40 years’ experience in agricultural practices and policy analysis, including both domestic and international work.
Paula Aberasturi, Director, is a lawyer by training and the founder of DowntoEarth (www.downtoearth.ph), Makati, Phillippines, a sustainable farm ecosystem following biodynamic, agro-forestry and indigenous farming principles. She is a consultant on sustainable development, food production and climate change to national and local government in the Philippines, and in 2017 she authored ‘The Backyard Farm: how to grow your own food”. Paula is an alumna of the IFOAM Leadership Course, and has also been active in the Slow Food movement.
Non Board Members
Robin Fransella, Organic Observatory Programme Manager, spent 14 years in the Organic Team at the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and was policy lead on organic in international fora. His educational background is legal and he is a Master of Public International Law (Environmental Law specialisation). Robin helped establish the EU Informal Working Group on Organic Imports and oversaw creation of the UK’s organic import database.
Georgina Rose Thomas, Coordinator, has a BA in Textile Product Development along with a MSc in Development Studies and has been involved in organic and fair supply chains for over 15 years. She has international 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.