US, Europe agree on organic standards

Organic goods from the U.S. will start showing up at organic food stores like this one in London thanks to a new agreement. (alalsacienne/Flickr)

Organic eaters: break out that organic blend and make some organic cucumber finger sandwiches for a Tea Time celebration this afternoon. Organic goods from Europe will start showing up on U.S. store shelves at some point soon, thanks to a cross-the-pond agreement on standards for organic goods.

U.S. organic farmers might be toasting with something a little stronger than tea, too, because the market for their goods just doubled. Organics grown in the U.S. will also be heading to Europe.

“The pact makes the world's two largest organic markets, $26.7 billion in the United States and $26 billion in the European Union, functionally equivalent,” Elizabeth Wiese reported in USA Today. That’s a big boost for U.S. organic farmers.

The U.S. and EU will start accepting each other’s organic certifications starting June 1. The announcement came at the BioFach World Organic Trade Fair in Germany and followed almost two years of negotiations between agriculture regulators in the U.S. and Europe.

Kathleen Merrigan, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, worked on the agreement from the U.S. side.

"Everybody was hoping that this day would come, and that we could have free trade in organic agriculture and get consumers what they want," Merrigan told NPR.

There is one notable exception to the agreement: Organic farmers in Europe are allowed to treat sick animals with antibiotics. Because that’s not true for U.S. farmers, meat and milk from animals treated with antibiotics in Europe won’t be sold under the organic label in the U.S.

Regulators hope to continue to expand the market for organic food produced in the U.S. According to the Fresno Bee, the U.S. already has a similar agreement with Canada and is targeting South Korea next.