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New Australian Standard for organic products

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Organic Food At last we have an organic standard with some real relevance to the domestic marketplace. It represents the culmination of over 20 years effort by the organic industry. I personally was first involved in an approach to the Federal Government with a request for a standard in 1989.

The new AS 6000 from Standards Australia also represents the result of nearly five years of intensive lobbying and commitment from the Organic Federation of Australia (OFA).

Until now the ˜default™ key industry document has been the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce, which only had authority for export. Problems with a lack of definition arose during several court cases, where the judges found that they could not use the private (certifier) standard or the export standard.

Although the AS6000 is a voluntary standard, it does recommend certification as the ˜norm™ within organic marketing, and the courts and ACCC will use it as a definition.

Several court cases or ACCC actions have been won in recent years, to the benefit of consumers, but only where the offending companies had breached other obligations, such as misrepresenting contents on the label or misusing a certifiers logo, AS 6000 will permit consumer authorities and individuals to take action based on a core definition of what organic really is. It will stop people from claiming that they are organic even though they use urea, glyphosate or GMOs.

The organic industry is already a $600 million-a-year industry in Australia, but this standard should boost the confidence of consumers, growers, processors and exporters and give organic business a significant boost towards reaching one billion dollars of turnover.

Consumers are currently faced with eight different organic certification schemes, with different labels and grower requirements, and some non-certified products that claim to be organic. In the aftermath of AS 6000, the OFA will promote a single national organic logo to appear alongside the certifier™s logo, and reassure consumers that the goods meet the key standard for the industry.

The standard is available for the cost of $87 from the Standards Australia/SAI website. While the cost is high (the AQIS and certifier standards are available for free as a download) individual growers do not need to possess the standard. Certified operators only require their certifiers standard, which in most cases will remain available for free from the certifiers website.

In the meantime we are astounded to hear that some certifiers are claiming they will not use the AS 6000 and will stick with the old AQIS document. After years of fighting for it, we finally have a single standard with applicability to the domestic and export market, and the opportunity to present a simple, plain language document that anyone can read and interpret. Why would we not get behind a single unifying standard?

If you belong to one of these organizations I encourage you to ask your certifier to explain in detail what they have to loose from supporting AS 6000.

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