The growing demand for organic produce has augmented the international trade for organic products. At the same time, the label ‘organic’ has increasingly become legally protected as standards specify the exact requirements for organic production and labelling. While private labels were the first to proliferate, many countries now have organic standards as well, quite a number of them in the form of public regulation. The plethora of available standards, labels, and certifications has led to a complex and fragmented system of regulations. The duplication and overlaps between the systems has created compliance problems and barriers to trade. The absence of full harmonization of organic standards induced governments, traders, and certification bodies to develop complex pathways to facilitate trade. These include compliance, equivalence, and mutual recognition based mechanisms. Another pathway that has been recognized as overcoming problems of regulatory complexity is regionalization. This article examines the public and public-private regional standards that have thus far been established in the European Union, (East) Africa, Central America, the Pacific, and Asia. Based on interviews and document analysis this article evaluates if the promise of regionalization can make the regulatory field of organic standards more cohesive and whether it is conducive for regional and international trade. The findings indicate that as a system of governance, regionalization contributes to normative coherence while allowing for regional adaptation of organic standards. Ineffective enforcement and inadequate allocation of legal, political, and funding resources seriously imperil the institutional alignment necessary for trade purposes.
- Regionalization; Harmonization; Equivalence; Organic; Fragmentation; Trade