Increasingly, health-conscious consumers are demanding food marketed as ‘organic’. But even those who would prefer to eat organically farmed and processed food often baulk at paying higher prices for them.
Part of the problem of getting consumers to pay extra for organically produced foods is that, as yet, there’s no globally – or even nationally – accepted standard. Currently, Australia has two: one for exporters of organic produce and a second, based on the export standard, for domestic producers and importers. It is looking towards reconciling the two.
The National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce (NS), for exporters, defines organic as “the application of practices that emphasise the use of renewable resources; conservation of energy, soil and water; recognition of livestock welfare needs; and environmental maintenance and enhancement, while producing optimum quantities of produce without the use of artificial fertiliser or synthetic chemicals”.
Since 1992, the industry has been using the NS export guidelines as its base standard for domestic produce and imported organic produce. Seven AQIS-accredited certifiers, overseen by the Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Productivity Division apply this standard for exports, while domestically, various certifiers use differing standards, not all of which comply with the NS. Moreover, a lot of imported organic products comply with other national or private organic standards but not with Australia’s NS.
Published by Standards Australia, the Australian Standard 6000-2009 Organic and biodynamic products was developed at the request of The Organic Federation of Australia (the industry’s peak representative body) with input from organic stakeholders, and was released in October 2009.
Based on the existing NS, the domestic and import standard establishes a set of procedures for the production, preparation, transportation, marketing and labelling of organic and biodynamic products, including processed food, in the Australian market. While it’s still a voluntary code, it gives the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) a stronger basis on which to enforce the Trade Practices Act 1974 in cases of misleading, deceptive or fraudulent conduct.
Given booming demand for organic food in China, there is pressure to reconcile the differences between national definitions and regulatory approaches. Standards and definitions established by US Department of Agriculture (USDA) can be found at http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/ofp/ofp.shtml