France

Mandatory Organic Standards and Labels

In France, EU legislation on organic farming is fully implemented. Additionally, some national rules apply for areas not covered by EU legislation, e.g. for rabbits, snails, ostriches, pet food and restaurants.

The French Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for the implementation of the EU legislation for organic farming, the National Institute of Origin and Quality (INAO) as the assigned competent authority is responsible for the approval and monitoring of the private control bodies.

Pre-packed organic products sold in France have to be labelled with the EU organic farming logo. For products imported from third countries the use of the EU organic farming logo is optional. A mandatory national organic label does not exist.

Basic Regulation on production and labelling of organic products
COUNCIL REGULATION (EC) No 834/2007 of 28 June 2007 on the organic production and labelling of organic products and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 2092/91.
This basic regulation became effective on 1 January 2009 and describes the objectives, principles and most important rules on production. The basic regulation is complemented by the rules for implementation (see below).
A consolidated version covering all amendments can be downloaded as well as the single legal acts (all corrections, amendments and additions). Updates are performed regularly and promptly.
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Implementing Rules on organic production, labelling and Control
COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 889/2008 of 5 September 2008 laying down detailed rules for the implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 on organic production and labelling of organic products with regard to organic production, labelling and control.
The rules for implementation describe detailed production and labelling rules and positive lists for permitted inputs. The objectives, principles and most important production rules are described in the basic regulation (see above).
A consolidated version covering all amendments can be downloaded as well as the single legal acts (all corrections, amendments and additions). Updates are performed regularly and promptly.
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Implementing Rules on the import of organic products from third countries  
COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 1235/2008 of 8 December 2008 laying down detailed rules for implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 as regards the arrangements for imports of organic products from third countries.
The rules for implementation describe the arrangements for imports of organic products.
A consolidated version covering all amendments can be downloaded as well as the single legal acts (all corrections, amendments and additions). Updates are performed regularly and promptly.
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European Commission
Website of the Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Commission with information on organic farming and EU legislation.
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Additional national standards and guides
The website of the National Institute of Origin and Quality (INAO) provides a list of national organic standards and guides. The following documents can be downloaded (as PDF or Excel file):

  • Cahier des charges concernant le mode de production biologique d'animaux d'élevage et complétant les dispositions des règlements (CE) n° 834/2007 du Conseil et (CE) n° 889/2008 de la Commission laying down detailed rules for the production of animals not covered by the regulation EC 889/2008: rabbits, snails and ostriches.
  • Cahier des Charges «Aliments pour animaux de compagnie» à base de matières premières issues du mode de production biologique laying down rules for petfood using organic raw materials.
  • Cahier des charges pour la restauration hors foyer à caractère commercial laying down rules for private mass catering (restaurants), but not for public mass catering as canteen for schools, hospitals, public administration.
  • Guide des produits de protection des cultures utilisables en France en Agriculture Biologique explaining how to use the input databases « Liste des produits et usages (format Excel) » and « Liste des substances de base (format Excel) »
  • Guide de lecture pour l’application des reglements interpreting certain areas of European and French organic legislation.
  • Guide d’etiquetage des denrées alimentaires biologiques explaining the requirements for the use of the EU ecolable and the French AB logo.
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French Ministry for Agriculture and Food
Website of the French Ministry for Agriculture and Food (Ministère de l’Agriculture, de l’Alimentation, de la Pêche, de la Ruralité et de l’Aménagement du territoire) with information on organic farming in France. 
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National Institute of Origin and Quality (INAO)
Website of the National Institute of Origin and Quality (Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité - INAO), the French competent authority for organic farming.
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Voluntary Organic Standards and Labels

In France, there is a well-known and widely spread national organic logo, the AB mark, which is owned by the French Ministry for Agriculture and Food. The usage of the AB mark is voluntarily and must follow the usage rules for the AB mark. The same applies to imported organic products. The AB mark is managed by the French Agency for Development and Promotion of Organic Farming (L’Agence BIO).

Private Standards and labels do not exist. Organic farmers are organised in the National Federation of Organic Farming (Fédération Nationale d’Agriculture Biologique, FNAB). The national union of organic processors and distributors is called SYNABIO (Syndicat national des enterprises bio).

French Ministry for Agriculture and Food
Website of the French Ministry for Agriculture and Food.
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French Agency for Development and Promotion of Organic Farming (L’Agence BIO)
Website of the French Agency for Development and Promotion of Organic Farming (L’Agence Française pour le Développement et la Promotion de l’Agriculture Biologique - L’Agence BIO) in France. L’Agence BIO is in charge of managing the AB logo.
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Information on the AB label
Information on the national AB label provided by L’Agence BIO, which is in charge of managing the label. The logo and “Rules for the Usage of the AB Logo” can be downloaded.
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National Federation of Organic Farming (FNAB)
Website of the National Federation of Organic Farming (Fédération Nationale d’Agriculture Biologique - FNAB). FNAB is the association of French organic producers. 
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National Union of Organic Companies (SYNABIO)
Website of the National Union of Organic Companies (Syndicat national des enterprises bio - SYNABIO) in France. 
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Control Bodies

The organic control and certification process is performed by private control bodies approved and supervised by the National Institute of Origin and Quality (INAO). The up-to-date directory of French control bodies is published by the EU.

Control Authorities
List of designated control authorities and approved control bodies in the EU, as well as in the European Economic Area and Switzerland in accordance with Article 35 of the Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007.
Provided are respective links to an official, older version and a more current, provisional version.
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Import Requirements

The procedure for the import of organic products into France depends on the country of origin. Within the European Union, organic products can be marketed freely in all Member States. Organic products from countries outside the European Union can be imported into France if the exporting country is listed in the directory of recognised third countries or the products have been certified by a control body authorised by the EU Commission as equivalent.

Sales of organic products from EU countries

France belongs to the European Union. Within the European Union, the principle of free movement of goods applies for organic products subject to Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007. Organic products which have been produced or processed in an EU member state or which are imported from third countries into another EU member state can be marketed freely in France. 

Import of organic products from non-EU countries

Organic products from countries outside the European Union (so-called third countries) can be imported into the EU and can be labelled with reference to organic agriculture and the EU organic logo, if they comply with the legal requirements of EU legislation for organic agriculture and have been controlled and certified on-site at all levels of production, processing, storage and marketing. Organic products from non-EU countries can be imported according to the following two procedures:

  • Procedure 1 – Import from recognised third countries
  • Procedure 2 – Import from all other third countries

Import from recognised third countries

Organic products from non-EU countries can be imported into an EU country and marketed with reference to organic production if the exporting country is listed in the directory of recognised third countries (Annex III of Regulation (EC) No. 1235/2008). With the listing in Annex III of Regulation (EC) No. 1235/2008 the European Union recognises that the rules for production and inspection for certain product categories in these countries are equivalent to the rules of the EU legislation on organic farming. Exceptions for single products and product categories can occur.

The up-to-date directory of recognised third countries can be found in Annex III of the Council Regulation (EC) No 1235/2008 (see below). For each of these countries it has been specified which product categories are permitted for import (for example unprocessed plant products, live animals and unprocessed animal products etc.), which restrictions are in place, which control authority is responsible and from which control bodies the issued certificates of inspection are recognised.

Import from all other third countries

Organic products from non-EU countries not belonging to the recognised third countries (see above) can be imported into an EU country and marketed with reference to organic production if they have been certified by a third countries’ control body approved by the EU Commission according to Annex IV of Regulation (EC) No. 1235/2008. This list of recognised control bodies and control authorities also specifies the third countries and product categories for which the recognition applies.

Customs clearance and import notification

Each batch of organic products imported into the EU has to be accompanied by an electronic certificate of inspection as defined in Annex V of Regulation (EC) No 1235/2008, which is issued by the control body of the operator conducting the last preparation step in the third country, e.g. packing and labelling the export batches. According to amendment 2016/1842 of Regulation (EC) No. 1235/2006 this electronic certificate of inspection has to be generated via TRACES (Trade Control and Expert System) since 20th of October, 2017.
Each company with physical goods contact being involved in the export and import procedure has to register itself in the TRACES database. For that, an EU-Login is necessary. After registration with TRACES, the company has to inform its control body or authority which has to validate the registration.
Even though, the use of digital certificates of inspection with electronic signatures is planned, so far they are hardly accepted and printed and signed paper certificates of inspection are mainly used.
The import company notifies its control body about its imports through TRACES.
At the point of entry, the certificate of inspection has to be presented as original paper to the EU customs authority. The certificate is examined by customs for correctness and provided with an endorsement. Additionally, the customs authority checks the data in the online version of the inspection certificate in TRACES. Complete and correct data are required for customs clearance. After customs clearance, the imported lots can be traded freely in all member states of the EU.

Annex III of Regulation (EC) No 1235/2008: List of Third Countries
Directory of third countries and relevant specifications according to Article 7.
Directory of recognised third countries. The list describes the product categories for which the recognition is valid (including restrictions), the applicable production rules, the responsible authorities, the recognised control bodies, as well as the authorities issuing certifications. Go to the latest consolidated version to receive the latest version of the list.
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Organic Farming Information System: List of recognised Control Bodies and Control Authorities
List of control bodies and control authorities for the purpose of equivalence and relevant specifications referred to in article 10 of Regulation (EC) 1235/2008.
Directory of control bodies recognised as equivalent sorted according to name of control body. Listed are countries and product categories for which the recognition applies. This list is updated irregularly.
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Annex IV of Regulation (EC) No 1235/2008: List of recognised Control Bodies and Control Authorities
List of control bodies and control authorities for the purpose of equivalence and relevant specifications referred to in Article 10.
Directory of control bodies recognised as equivalent sorted according to name of control body. Listed are the countries and product categories for which the recognition applies.
The link leads to an overview page. To find the latest consolidated version, please scroll down until you reach the headline "Relationship between documents". There you find "All consolidated versions". Open the latest consolidated version and scroll down within the document until you reach Annex IV. To find out, which control bodies are recognised for a certain country, you can use the search function and search for the country you are interested in.
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European Commission: Information on TRACES
The website of the European Commission provides general information on TRACES as well as detailed instructions.
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EU-Login
Website to create an EU-Login, which is a requirement to register with TRACES. 
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TRACES - Trade Control and Expert System - Login
Website to register with TRACES.
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Further Information

General information on organic agriculture in France.

French Ministry for Agriculture and Food
Website of the French Ministry for Agriculture and Food.
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L’Agence BIO (l’Agence française pour le développement et la promotion de l’agriculture biologique)
Website of the L’Agence Bio (National Platform for the Development and Promotion of Organic Agriculture in France) with comprehensive information on organic agriculture in France, e.g. data on the French organic market.
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Organic Europe: France
Summary on organic farming in France. The site is updated irregularly.
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Global Organic Trade Guide: France
Website of the American Organic Trade Association (OTA) providing information on international organic trade. Although designed for U.S. exporters, some of the provided information might also be interesting for exporters from other countries.
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