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Review of International Approaches to Organic Regulations and Labelling: Production, Economic and Market Access Implications for the UK - OF03102


Organic farming makes up a small but important sector of UK farming. In 2016 the UK had 508 thousand hectares of land farmed organically and 6,363 organic producers and processors. The three main crop types grown on organic farms were cereals, vegetables including potatoes, and other arable crops. Poultry and sheep remained the most popular livestock farmed organically.
In the UK, the inputs and practices used in organic farming are strictly regulated in accordance with EU Regulation – many other countries have organic standards, but they may differ on certain aspects and are not always equivalent. Once produced, pre-packed foods can only be labelled organic in the UK if at least 95% of the ingredients are organic – retailers can label products organic as long as 95% of the product’s farmed ingredients are organic and they are sold direct to customers in their shop. A food or feed product cannot be labelled organic if it hasn’t been inspected and certified by one of the UK’s 8 approved organic control bodies.
With the UK’s exit from the EU comes the chance to potentially adapt national organic regulations. Various options are available, ranging from keeping the current EU approach to considering adopting alternative models (or parts thereof) used in other third countries.


The central aim of this project is to scope out the differences in national organic regulations between the UK, EU, EEA countries, the recognised third countries/equivalence models and other third countries or models of interest, highlighting the key strengths and weaknesses in order to provide an evidence base for future UK policy direction. The value of a UK specific organic label should also be investigated.

Policy background

The overarching policy background supporting this call for research is framed by the Defra strategy which sets out Defra’s goal to make the UK a world-leading food and farming nation and to provide a cleaner and healthier environment benefiting the economy. This research aims to create an evidence base for future policy options on domestic organic regulation.
This call also specifically addresses the following challenges set out in the food and farming evidence plan:

• Improving productivity and competitiveness of the whole food supply chain

• Increasing food production while improving the environment

• Building trust to ensure customers have confidence in the British food they buy

• Use of evidence and research in policy making

• To map out the key differences in organic regulation between those used by the EU regulation and other key countries.

• To evaluate the implications of choice of organic regulation model for the UK in terms of farm productivity, popularity of organic farming, finances, trade implications etc.

• To review the different organic labelling models used by other countries, and use this to inform an evaluation of what the key benefits and drawbacks would be in creating a UK-specific label, including the likely costs.

• To evaluate the level of support from key UK stakeholders for the different options concerning both a future regulation model and preferred labelling, ensuring positives and negatives are documented.
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2018

To: 2022

Cost: £52,542
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Organic Research Centre
Economic Policy Evaluation              
Food Chain              
Food manufacturing industry              
Organic Farming