International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements
The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) is the worldwide umbrella organization for the organic agriculture movement, which represents close to 800 affiliates in 117 countries.
IFOAM's declares its mission is to, "Lead, unite and assist the organic movement in its full diversity." and vision is "Worldwide adoption of ecologically, socially and economically sound systems, based on the Principles of Organic Agriculture."
IFOAM began in Versailles, France, on November 5, 1972, during an international congress on organic agriculture organized by the French farmer organization Nature et Progrès. The late Roland Chevriot, President of Nature et Progrès, took the initiative. There were 5 founding members representing different organizations: Lady Eve Balfour representing the Soil Association of Great Britain, Kjell Arman representing the Swedish Biodynamic Association, Pauline Raphaely representing the Soil Association of South Africa, Jerome Goldstein representing Rodale Press of the United States, and Roland Chevriot representing Nature et Progrès of France.
The aim of the new organization was reflected in the name: International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements. The founders hoped that the federation would meet what they saw as a major need: a unified, organized voice for organic food, and the diffusion and exchange of information on the principles and practices of organic agriculture across national and linguistic boundaries.
The IFOAM General Assembly serves as the foundation of IFOAM. It elects the IFOAM World Board for a three year term. The IFOAM World Board is a diverse group of individuals working voluntarily to lead IFOAM. The current World Board was elected at the IFOAM General Assembly in Vignola/Italy, which took place from June 22–24, 2008. The World Board appoints members to official committees, working groups and task forces based upon the recommendation of the IFOAM membership, and IFOAM member organizations also establish regional groups and sector specific interest groups.
IFOAM actively participates in international agricultural and environmental negotiations with the United Nations and multilateral institutions to further the interests of the organic agricultural movement worldwide, and has observer status or is otherwise accredited by the following international institutions:
- ECOSOC Status with the United Nations General Assembly
- The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
- United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)
- Codex Alimentarius Commission (FAO and World Health Organization)
- United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)
- The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
- International Labor Organization of the United Nations (ILO)
- International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
According to the One World Trust's Global Accountability Report 2008 which assessed a range of organisations in areas such as transparency, stakeholder participation and evaluation capacity, "IFOAM is the highest scoring international NGO, and at the top of the 30 organisations this year with a score of 71 percent".
For a full list of member organizations, see the IFOAM Directory
IFOAM and Standards and Certification
IFOAM's Organic Guarantee System (OGS) is designed to a) facilitate the development of organic standards and third-party certification worldwide and to b) provide an international guarantee of these standards and organic certification.
In recent years IFOAM’s OGS approach underwent some significant changes. With the establishment and spreading of organic standards and certification around the world a number of new challenges appeared. Especially smallholder farmers in developing countries struggle with a) the multitude of standards they are expected to farm conform with and b) with high certification costs and considerable administrative expenditures.
IFOAM had a breakthrough in the development and adoption of approaches to address these certification problems. The organization now directs special focus on the promotion of two new concepts:
IFOAM Family of Standards
In the framework of a multi-year collaboration IFOAM developed together with his UN partners: the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), a set of standard requirements that functions as an international reference to assess the quality and equivalency of organic standards and regulations. It is known as the COROS (Common Objectives and Requirements of Organic Standards) The vision is that the Family of Standards will contain all organic standards and regulations equivalent to the COROS. Instead of assessing each standard against each other the Family of Standards can be used as a tool to simplify equivalence assessment procedures while ensuring a high level of integrity and transparency. The Family of Standard Program started in January 2011. One year later about 50 standards worldwide are approved.
Participatory Guarantee Systems are locally focused quality assurance systems. They certify producers based on active participation of stakeholders and are built on a foundation of trust, social networks and knowledge exchange” (IFOAM definition, 2008).
Participatory Guarantee Systems represent an alternative to third party certification, especially adapted to local markets and short supply chains. They can also complement third party certification with a private label that brings additional guarantees and transparency. PGS enable the direct participation of producers, consumers and other stakeholders in:
- the choice and definition of the standards
- the development and implementation of certification procedures
- the certification decisions
For many organic farmers, particularly in developing countries and emerging organic markets, third party certification is often difficult to access. PGS provides an alternative option that takes some burden from the farmers and is crucially linked to local products and local markets.
Accreditation and IOAS
IFOAM also offers organic accreditation to certification bodies. Certifiers can have their processes audited against the IFOAM Accreditation Requirements. IOAS, an IFOAM daughter company set up in 1997, offers the IFOAM Accreditation (analyses of standards and verification process) or the Global Organic System Accreditation (analyses of verification process only) and grants special recognition of credibility. The document ISO/IEC 17011: ‘Conformity assessment – General requirements for accreditation bodies accrediting conformity assessment bodies’ lays down internationally agreed rules for how accreditation should be performed. Various national bodies verify this accreditation including the US Department of Commerce National Institute of Standards & Technology.
IFOAM and GMOs
On October 19, 1998, participants at IFOAM's 12th Scientific Conference issued the Mar del Plata Declaration, where more than 600 delegates from over 60 countries voted unanimously to exclude the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food production and agriculture. From that point GMOs have been categorically excluded from organic farming.
Text of the declaration:
- We, the undersigned participants at the 12th Scientific Conference of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) at Mar del Plata, Argentina, call on governments and regulatory agencies throughout the world to immediately ban the use of genetic engineering in agriculture and food production since it involves:
- Unacceptable threats to human health
- Negative and irreversible environmental impacts
- Release of organisms of an un-recallable nature
- Removal of the right of choice, both for farmers and consumers
- Violation of farmers' fundamental property rights and endangerment of their economic independence
- Practices, which are incompatible with the principles of sustainable agriculture as defined by IFOAM
Signed by: Dr. Vandana Shiva (India), Hervé La Prairie (Outgoing IFOAM president, France), Linda Bullard (Incoming IFOAM president, USA/Belgium), Gunnar Rundgren (Incoming IFOAM vice-president, Sweden), Gerald Hermann (IFOAM Treasurer, Germany), Pipo Lernoud (Conference Coordinator, Argentina), Guillermo Schnitman (MAPO President, Argentina)
IFOAM and training
Organic agriculture can contribute to meaningful socio-economic and ecologically sustainable development, especially in poorer countries. On one hand, this is due to the application of organic principles, which means efficient management of local resources (e.g., local seed varieties, manure, etc.) and therefore cost-effectiveness. On the other hand, the market for organic products – at local and international level – has tremendous growth prospects and offers creative producers and exporters in the South excellent opportunities to improve their income and living conditions. IFOAM is therefore active to give special support to the development of the Organic Agriculture Sector in Developing Countries through several means. Organic Agriculture is a very knowledge intensive production system. Therefore capacity building efforts play a central role in this regard. There are many efforts all around the world regarding the development of training material and the organization of training courses related to Organic Agriculture. Existing knowledge is still scattered and not easy accessible. Especially in Developing Countries this situation remains an important constraint for the growth of the organic sector.
For that reason, IFOAM created an Internet training platform whose objective is to become the global reference point for Organic Agriculture training through free access to high quality training materials and training programs on Organic Agriculture.
In November 2007, the Training Platform hosted more than 170 free manuals and 75 training opportunities.
- Environmental justice
- Global Ecolabelling Network
- Association Kokopelli
- Heirloom plant
- UTZ Certified
- Paull, John (2010). "From France to the World: The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)". Journal of Social Research & Policy 1 (2): 93–102.
- Official Web site of IFOAM
- ISEAL Alliance
- One World Trust: Global Accountability Report 2008
- IFOAM Training Platform
- IFOAM Positions
- Participatory Guarantee Systems
- IFOAM Organic Guarantee System
- International Organic Accreditation Service
- Movimiento Agroecológico Latinoamericano A Latin and Caribbean equivalent