Group Organic Certification

May 15, 2024 | Source: Regeneration International | by André Leu

I am part of the generation of organic farmers who developed the first organic standards and certification systems in the 1970s and 80s to ensure the integrity of organic agriculture and stop false claims when people were selling their produce as organic. We did this to protect both farmers and consumers.

Our first standards were simple one—or two-page documents. Organic farmers developed them with extensive experience and knowledge of organic farming systems.

Out of this, the first certification organizations were formed. They were democratic, not-for-profit membership organizations. Our inspectors were other pioneering organic farmers whom we trusted for their knowledge and integrity. We would have an inspection once every two years and submit a signed declaration for the non-inspection years. We used to look forward to our inspectors, as it was time we could learn from them ways to improve our farms and organic production systems.

The worst thing that happened to the organic sector was when governments started regulating it. At the time, we believed that government regulation would protect the sector and stop fraudulent claims and substitutions, so we strongly advocated for it.

Our clear and compelling one and two-page standards became lengthy bureaucratic documents of complex requirements and restrictions. Our inspectors, initially respected fellow farmers, were replaced with auditors prohibited from giving advice.

The certifiers became inflexible bureaucracies that charged high prices for their services. The auditing process assumed that farmers were guilty until they could prove their innocence. The auditors spent less time inspecting the farm and more time inspecting the paperwork.