Voluntary Environmental and Organic Standards in Agriculture Policy Implications

OECD / by Sylvain Rousset, et al.

While public regulation in food and agriculture is attracting attention at both policy and research level for their potential implications on international food trade, policy implications of agricultural standards – understood to be legally not mandatory and hence voluntary – are much less well understood. Yet, environmental and organic standards have grown in importance in agriculture and agri-food chains, making also their potential trade effects more relevant. In this context, understanding the linkages between governments and standards has become a key element in the debate. This report analyses possible roles of public authorities in the area of environmental and organic standards, including policy objectives, options for interaction and means for the use of standards for achieving public policy goals. It identifies the main objectives behind government activity on environmental and organic standards in the area of consumer protection and fraud prevention, the enabling of functioning food markets and the improvement of efficiency in the design, implementation and monitoring of public policies. Countries have taken very different approaches towards dealing with standards on organic agriculture which frequently, though not always, are seen as a subset of environment-related standards. Choices for organic standards range between market self-regulation and the development of government-owned public standards. More generally, the level of public intervention often reflects OECD governments’ perception on the environmental benefits of organic agriculture itself.


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