The strange thing about the EU organic regulation (currently 2092/91) is that while it gives us the standard for organic farming and processing it doesn’t really say how control and certification should be organized. At first site it seems that you have certification bodies (CB) in each country that have taken upon them to take care of the certification task. But with a closer look it is not quite so simple. I’m not really a specialist in this but I would say you can put EU countries in a few groups:
1) several private CB’s and strong private standard(s) (example: the UK, Germany, Sweden)
2) several private CB’s certifying mainly to EU standards (France, Italy)
3) one semi-private CB certifying mainly to EU standards (the Netherlands)
4) several regional authorities responsible for certification (Spain)
5) central governmental authority responsible for certification (Denmark, Finland)
I am not really aware where the new member states go, but I presume mainly 2) and 5). At least Estonia is in 5).
An interesting point is weather foreign certifiers are allowed in the country. Recently there was news that pressure from the European Commission piled over Austria to allow non-Austrian CB’s to operate in Austria. While reading the news I wondered how come Finland is not sued for this? Well, I suppose it’s because we don’t have private CB’s in Finland in the first place.
There are pros and cons to a governmental certification system. The pros are that it’s relatively well organized and cost-effective. In Finland we feel that one of the pros is that government officials are more reliable than inspectors from private organizations. This is some kind of cultural thing: in Finland we actually trust government officials. Transparency International has rated Finland as the least corrupted country in the world – so actually you can trust them! But when we are in the export business we should realize that the image of government officials isn’t the same everywhere. Actually a private certification might be more trustworthy.
But there are cons and therefore I have personally opposed a governmental control system since 1994 (that’s when it was started). The main problem was that control of the whole system shifted from private (the organic movement) to government. Currently the bigger problem is lack of flexibility and customer-orientation. The authorities do what law (EU regulation) requires from them and that’s it. If our companies need private certifications or foreign governmental certifications (NOP, JAS) they can’t and won’t help us (it’s not their business). So we have the EU certification and if we need something else – well that’s our problem.
to be continued….
In the meantime please comment.