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The New EU Regulation: Changes for organic production and group certification

Since January 2022 a new EU regulation for organic production is in place. The article from our Naturland ICS expert Marlene Rudolph summarizes relevant changes focusing on group certification.

Marlene Rudolph, Naturland e.V.

A new regulation for organic production of the EU is applicable since January 2022. It includes the basic legal act, Regulation (EU) 2018/848 and over 30 secondary acts that specify detailed rules for the implementation.

What are the major changes?

As a major change, the EU organic regulation changes its approach from “equivalence” to “compliance”. Currently, most operators in third countries are certified against equivalent standards of their Control Bodies (CB). The new regulation requires all operators to be fully compliant with the regulation. This affects among others the use of inputs for organic production: Any applied input needs to be included in the list of authorized fertilizers and plant protection products (see Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/1165, Annex 1 and 2). Countries that are recognized as “equivalent” countries (for example, India and Tunisia) need to re-negotiate trade agreements with the EU or change to compliance.

Besides some changes regarding crop production (for example, strengthening crop rotation and crop diversity), the regulation includes major changes for group certification of smallholder producer groups. The regulation now clearly defines how a producer group, called “group of operators”, needs to be set up: It must be composed only of organic or in-conversion farmers (or aquaculture producers or beekeepers) as statutory members who are under a new farm size/organic turnover limit and are registered as a legal entity with maximum 2000 members. Together with changes for re-inspection and sampling rates during external control, this has major implications for the set-up and the certification cost of a majority of smallholder groups worldwide.

Overall, the regulation has a much stronger focus on preventing and detecting any unauthorized substances in organic products. Operators must take and document precautionary measures to prevent pesticide residues. In the case that prohibited substances are found, organic sales will be blocked until an investigation about the origin of the residues has been carried out by the CB.

Groups of operators that are certified against different regulations, including EU, USDA, Global G.A.P. and Rainforest Alliance, face additional challenges due to diverging group certification requirements. Requirements for maximum group size, the possibility of contract production and external control rates now differ between these regulations. How compliance with these diverging requirements can be ensured in practice is still subject to clarification between the groups and their CBs.

When are the new rules applicable?

Although the regulation is already in force since January 2022, a transition period is currently applicable until 31 December 2024 for operators in third countries (non-member countries of the EU). Within this transition period, the CBs need to apply for recognition under the new rules. All operators need to be certified according to the new requirements from January 2025 onwards. Therefore, it is expected that CBs begin with inspections against the new rules at the end of 2023, at the latest in 2024. However, due to delays in the application and recognition of the CBs, this process may take more time than expected. Updates about the expected timeline will be provided by the CBs to their clients during the transition process.

Where to find information?

A link to Regulation 2018/848 including all amendments and secondary acts is provided on the website of IFOAM Organics Europe. When downloading the official text, you are advised to look for the current consolidated version of each text. A detailed guidance on the new requirements has been prepared by IFOAM Organics International. It will be published on the IFOAM Website soon, please check it regularly for details.   

Further information on the new requirements is also available at the Naturland website:

Please note: The training handbook includes practical information on the interpretation and implementation of the new rules that were partly still under discussion at the time of writing and therefore may have change in accordance with official announcements and guidance by the EU commission. For the final interpretation, please check the IFOAM guidance.

Important note:

The information presented here represents Naturland’s current understanding based on a detailed analysis and information provided by other stakeholders. As the regulation is complex and not yet applied in third countries, many questions are still unresolved, and any information provided may include inaccuracies. Certification decisions will be taken by the recognized CBs according to their approved procedures and based on regulatory texts and official ruling by the EU.

Therefore, please always refer to official regulatory texts for clarity and contact your CB for updates about the transition process and current requirements or necessary changes applicable to your organic operation.

Changes for Naturland certification?

Regarding the implementation of an Internal Control System (ICS), the detailed rules laid down by the EU are already in line with current Naturland requirements. However, some additional requirements apply for Naturland certified groups. Importantly, groups must ensure the compliance of their members with requirements of the Naturland Standards for organic production and social responsibility that are relevant to their project.

Additionally, Naturland reference must be included in their procedures and documentation. A summary of Naturland-specific requirements for the ICS is published here. Please note that this summary may be adjusted during further clarification regarding the new certification requirements of the EU regulation.

Importantly, changes in the group structure may also involve changes for the registration of membership and contracts signed with Naturland. Please inform us about any structural changes implemented in your group to discuss necessary changes for Naturland certification. Such changes may include for example the new registration of groups as legal entities for certification, re-arrangements regarding the ICS management, exclusion of large farm units from the group, etc.

This text is a translation. No guarantee can be given for the correctness.


Marlene Rudolph works in international quality assurance and certification and is the contact person for members in Vietnam and Thailand.

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