Organic Standards

On the 5th December, 2017 - World Soil Day -

The SAOSO Standard for Organic Production and Processing was included in the IFOAM Family of Standards.

SAOSO would like to thank all those who participated in the process of getting the SAOSO Standard for Organic Production and Processing to the point of being published. Particular thanks go to those members of the interim steering committee (2016), IFOAM Organic International, PGS-SA and other specialists who assisted with the finalisation of the standards. Special thanks to Konrad Hauptfleisch and Joelle Katto-Andrighetto of  IFOAM Organic International, whose advice and work have been invaluable.




PGS Organic Food Farms Certification



The last number of years has seen a substantial growth in the awareness and marketing of organic agriculture products.


The awareness of organics also brought an additional need for assurance and quality management. As organic agriculture in South Africa enters the mainstream economy, it has to comply with and conform to its rules of engagement.



This means that claims regarding the organic integrity of a product need to be independently verified to the customers’ satisfaction.

It is also clear that local markets and small growers are not exempt from this need for assurance.

Before one can describe the standard for organic production and processing, one has to agree on a common definition of organic agriculture.


This standard is based on the Standard for Organic Production and Processing of IFOAM - Organics International, as well as on the global organisation’s Definition and Principles of Organic Agriculture as adopted by the IFOAM World Board in 2008.

Women Farming Agroecologically South Africa



“Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils,

ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects.


Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved.”

  • Principle of health: Organic Agriculture should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant, animal, human and planet as one and indivisible.


  • Principle of ecology: Organic Agriculture should be based on living ecological systems and cycles, work with them, emulate them and help sustain them.

  • Principle of fairness: Organic Agriculture should build on relationships that ensure fairness with regard to the common environment and life opportunities.


  • Principle of care: Organic Agriculture should be managed in a precautionary and responsible manner to protect the health and well-being of current and future generations and the environment.



Organic Health



Organic agriculture is a whole system approach based upon a set of processes resulting in a sustainable ecosystem, safe food, good nutrition, animal welfare and social justice. Therefore organic production is more than a system of production that includes or excludes certain inputs.

The SAOSO Standard is written in such a way that producers wishing to follow the standard may use it in the context of third-party certification, Participatory Guarantee Systems (PGS), Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), or simply self-commitment.



The SAOSO Standard covers the areas of general organic management, crop production (including plant breeding), animal production (including beekeeping), wine making, wild collection, processing and handling, labeling and marking, approval and certification, and social justice.

Each section contains subsections that are organized according to a similar structure, namely a statement of the general principle applicable to that section, followed by the requirements that have to be followed by the operators. The requirements are the minimum requirements that an operation, such as a farm or enterprise, must meet to be certified as organic.

The SAOSO Standard for Organic Production and Processing Chapters 1, 2 and 3 are applicable to all crop and animal production systems. Chapters 8, 9 and 10 are applicable to all systems, including processing. Technical terms are explained in the section on definitions. 

SAOSO is in discussion with retailers, farmers, consumer organisations and Government to spread the word.


South Africa - in the form of the since-departed South African Soil Association – was a founder member of IFOAM in 1972. Forty-five years later, the sector has fewer than 300 certified organic farmers, and anything ‘organic’ has been viewed with scepticism because, during this time, no organic standards have been promulgated.


In the year 2000, representatives of the two certifying bodies (CBs), together with other stakeholders and under the banner of the Organic Agriculture Association of South Africa (OAASA), lobbied the Department of Agriculture (DAFF) for an organic regulation. DAFF complied, and the drafting began. Many technicalities prevented the smooth adoption of the standards and seventeen years later, the sector was frustrated.


In January of 2016, the interim steering committee of SAOSO, in consultation with many in the sector, such as the Biodynamic Association, PGS-SA, and many of the co-ops who had been practising farming using PGS methods, agreed that it was necessary to align with IFOAM and create standards independent of the SABS processes.


The drafting of a localised version of the IFOAM standards began, incorporating sections from the Afrisco Standards on wine, and including a section on Social Justice, such as ‘Production that violates human rights and social justice requirements, cannot be declared organic’.





The SAOSO Standard for Organic Production and Processing:


The SAOSO standard has the support of many organisations in the sector, including PGS-SA, The Biodynamic Association of SA, EcoCert, Ceres, Bryanston Organic and Natural Market, Green Road and Sleeping Giant Coop and many farmers, retailers and producers. There has also been positive feedback from Government.


The process involved consultation with the original SABS standards group; circulating more broadly for comment and adopting the final standard and getting the standard used.


The SAOSO Standard was included in the IFOAM Family of Standards on the 5th December, 2017. The published standard is a living document and can change as the users of the standards  may deem necessary in consultation with SAOSO .


The use the logo that demonstrates compliance with the standards, will gain traction over time as more producers and retailers use it and consumers recognise it. A communications campaign and press coverage will assist with awareness.


The next step will be to have SANAS include the SAOSO Standard in their scope under SANS17065 and at least one Certifying Body in South Africa to adopt and certify to the SAOSO standards. 

South African Organic Sector Organsiation


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