Following a major review, the Soil Association has confirmed that it is launching revised standards.
The organisation announced that the move has occurred to ensure organic farmers and processors can provide the highest level of protection for the environment, food and livestock in the most straightforward way possible. The organic standards will be strengthened even further in some areas, such as animal welfare and the updated format of the standards will also make it more straightforward for farmers to become certified by the Soil Association. For example, unnecessary duplication has been removed where requirements are covered adequately by other legislation.
The move comes after a major review of the standards, with input from the public, farmers, expert advisers and the food industry. This public consultation, which took place in 2016, has resulted in standards that will be easier for both licensees and the public to use and understand.
Dr Benjamin Dent, Chair of the Soil Association Standards Board, commented: “We believe that the Soil Association’s higher standards are the right standards for organic food and farming in the UK. This has been an extremely thorough, evidence-based review. Our expert committees and consultations have ensured the new standards are practical for our licensees and encourage them to innovate, and that where we are more demanding than the regulations, that this is justified in terms of enhanced impacts on animal welfare and the environment.”
The updated standards will come into effect from spring 2019 and involve requirements related to the provision of natural shelter for poultry, a strengthened approach to antibiotics, with a ban on the use of colistin, and less repetition, that is easier to follow; the documents have been slimmed down to avoid repetition. For example, nine previous standards banning GMOs are now covered in a single, more comprehensive standard, to make it more practical for licensees to understand what they need to do.
Finally, the freedom to innovate was covered; the new standards focus on the goal rather than prescribing how you get there. The Soil Association will still provide guidance on how to achieve the standards, but there will be more freedom for farmers to demonstrate that they meet the standards in the best way for them, their farm, and their animals.