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. All 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.”

"greenwashing" is when products claim to be organic when they're not

A matter of integrity

Without a regulatory framework 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. This confusion could undermine both the principles supporting organic food production and the proper certification processes.

This issue is currently under review by the Organics Industry Advisory Group. This was established in December 2020 by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. It was 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,” he says. “So integrity when making that claim is critical. 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
In the US, the USDA National Organic Program enforces national standards for organically-produced foods.

We’re lagging behind

CEO 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,” she says. “It is one of the only developed countries without a mandatory regulation. An organic standard will streamline exporters’ access to more markets. And it will 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 in Australia
“The Bud” is the most recognised and trusted certification logo.

Let’s nip this in the Bud

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

Eide says the Bud logo is best positioned to serve as Australia’s national symbol for certified goods. This is obtained through certification by ACO Certification.

“The Bud is a well-recognised symbol for the Australian organic market,” he says. “It’s already trusted by consumers. In our export markets, the Bud is a symbol of food provenance. It clearly states that the product was grown under the Australian Certified Organic Standard. 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.”