Is it organic? Time for a national standard

13th May 2021 | Eativity editors

One of the nation’s largest organic distributors, which exports high-quality Australian products to global markets in more than 14 countries, has reiterated calls for the introduction of a national standard relating to use of the word “organic”.

Eco-Farms Chief Executive Officer Erik Eide says he stands with the farmers, manufacturers, retailers and exporters across the organic supply chain who support this change to ensure the integrity and future growth of the burgeoning organic sector.

“There is a clear trend, here and around the world, in identifying how food is produced and the impact it is having on health and the environment,” Eide says. “As this trend continues, more consumers will be driven towards the many benefits of organic goods.

“A mandatory national standard is necessary to support the trust and integrity associated with our industry, both domestically and when entering emerging markets. We require an established framework that guarantees the quality of our national organic offering.”

Without a regulatory framework and consistent regulation in place, it’s currently possible for products to be labelled as “organic” when they’re not certified. Without a certified standard, Eide says the meaning of the word will become confusing to consumers, and this confusion could undermine both the principles supporting organic food production methods and the proper organic certification processes.

This issue is currently under review by the Organics Industry Advisory Group, which was established in December 2020 by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, as requested by the Federal Minister for Agriculture, David Littleproud.

Eide says he’s hopeful that a positive outcome from this process would lay a strong foundation upon which the Australian organic supply chain could capture growing opportunities across both domestic and global markets.

“The organic claim is very attractive in marketing, so integrity when making that claim is critical,” he says. “Without integrity, we threaten consumer-driven demand. That’s why we need trusted certification to provide clarity and a robust guarantee to the consumer.”

In the US, the USDA National Organic Program enforces national standards for organically-produced foods.

Chief Executive Officer of Australian Organic and member of the Organics Industry Advisory Group, Niki Ford, says exporters are being held back by the lack of a national standard.

“Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world, as it is one of the only developed countries without a mandatory regulation,” Ford says. “An organic standard will streamline exporters’ access to more markets and reduce the burden of having to pay separate fees and meet specific regulations for each individual customer nation.

“It’s also essential that anyone paying for a product has certainty and peace of mind that it is exactly what it claims to be on the label.”

“The Bud” is the most recognised and most trusted organic certification logo.

Ford says the Australian organic sector currently contributes more than $2 billion to the national economy and is poised for annual growth of 14.6 percent. However, to fully realise the growth that can come from the soaring demand for homegrown organic products, it’s vital for Australia to achieve a consistent domestic regulatory framework.

Eide says the Bud logo used on Eco-Farms products, obtained through certification by ACO Certification, is best positioned to be Australia’s single national symbol for certified goods.

“The Bud is a well-recognised symbol for the Australian organic market and is already trusted by consumers,” he says. “In export markets, the Bud is a symbol of food provenance, clearly stating the product was grown under the Australian Certified Organic Standard, and this has proven to have a significant value.

“Domestic regulation is a step forward in supporting the full supply chain as we unlock new markets and deliver more organic goods to consumers.”