CORRECTED: U.S., Canada agree to organic food trade standard

Wed Jun 17, 2009 2:11pm EDT
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(Corrects last line to show organic market was worth $3.6 billion in 1997, not 2007)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and Canada have agreed to accept each other's standards for organic food, expanding opportunities for organic food trade, a U.S. Agriculture Department official said on Wednesday.

"Today's agreement between the world's two largest organic trading partners is an important first step toward global harmonization of organic standards," Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said in a statement.

The deal will mean organic farmers and food processors certified by either the USDA's National Organic Program or the Canada Organic Product Regulation can market their food with organic labels in both countries without having to go through a second certification process, Merrigan said.

The Canadian regulation takes effect on June 30.

Canadians buy an estimated $2.1 billion to $2.6 billion worth of organic food, about 80 percent of which is imported. About 75 percent of those imports come from the United States, the USDA said.

The U.S. organic market was worth $24.6 billion in 2008, the USDA said, up from $3.6 billion in 1997.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Walter Bagley)