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local organic produce? October 17, 2004 9:16 PM

http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/10/17/1097951558979.html?oneclick=true How we lag in future of food By James Woodford and Kirsty Needham October 18, 2004 Page Tools Email to a friend Printer format Australia is lagging the world in the booming $30 billion global market for organic products - and the Government is being blamed because it has failed to set standards or regulate the industry. There is no legislation defining organic products, leaving consumers little protection from fakes. The system of self-regulation by farmers has produced confusion, with seven separate bodies producing different "certified organic" labels. While European countries set visionary targets for converting their farming land to organic, nothing has happened in Australia. One of the most senior organic industry representatives, Liz Clay, says the domestic organic market is falling behind the rest of the world. A board member of the peak international organic body and vice-chairwoman of the Organic Federation of Australia, she says a lack of proactive government policy, financial and legislative support are fundamental barriers to the growth of the organic industry. Ms Clay says that while the number of organic operators internationally has surged, in Australia it has remained steady at a little over 2000. No one knows for sure, however. The seven private companies accredited by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service to certify operators for exports have had no obligation to reveal their lists. There is no legislation requiring domestic organic products to be formally certified, which means the sector is fully self-regulating. To producers selling locally, the only organic certification available is the export standard. The chief executive officer of the Biological Farmers of Australia (BFA), Andrew Monk, says his company has about 1000 certified operations on its books. Both the BFA and the National Association of Sustainable Agriculture Australia have always revealed their lists. Dr Monk says there is progress towards unifying the organic industry and that there is not as much fragmentation of the certifying bodies as some claim. "The marketplace is progressively becoming more harmonious with a movement towards one common logo," he said. "It is a disappointment to us that we haven't been able to get domestic legislation for organic. We would like to see domestic legislation that fully protects the word organic." At present, the only guarantee of organic integrity is if produce has a logo from one of the seven certifying bodies. Marg Will, chief executive of Organic Food Chain, whose certifying business is expanding "like a runaway train", says she wants labelling laws because fake organic is "a huge problem".  [ send green star]
 
 October 17, 2004 9:16 PM

"Coles and Woolworths demand certification for fresh fruit and vegetables and food, but they are not carrying that through to personal care and grocery lines," she said. Ms Clay also blames the industry's problems on disunity and competition between companies charged with certifying producers, a failure of green groups to fully back holistic, chemical-free organic farming methods and the lack of a consumer body. She believes it is crucial that governments give consumers certainty about the organic label. "They won't want to buy organic again if they have paid good money for something full of pesticides that some guy at a market said was organic." Australia has by far the biggest area of organically certified farms in the world - more than 10 million hectares. But this is made up mostly of vast cattle properties in the north where going organic is relatively easy compared to more intensively farmed areas. In dollar terms the organic market is minuscule - around $300 million. The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation gives the entire organic industry, which crosses more than 50 agricultural sectors, $335,000, slightly more than the allocation for deer farmers and less than for honey bees. However, the Federal Government says it is premature to move to protect the word "organic" with legislation. A spokeswoman for the parliamentary secretary for agriculture, fisheries and forestry, Senator Judith Troeth, said the Government had invited representatives from a range of organic industry organisations to make recommendations, which would be reported next month. "At this stage it is premature to be addressing issues such as 'whole of industry' regulation and certification and ways to protect what is constituted as 'organic'," she said. "Currently, every person who produces, manufactures or markets organic produce for export must be certified with at least one certifying organisation approved by [the quarantine and inspection service]."  [ send green star]
 
Organic Symbols October 20, 2004 1:04 AM

I used to work as the administrator of The Soil Association in England some 20 years ago. It was SUCH a battle getting their symbol accepted as representing the highest standard for organic food production. When I left this small charity, eighteen years ago, they were still battling, using meagre funds to promote their work any way they could, and going to seats of government, both UK and Europe, to plead their cause. They had been formed as a charity in 1946 and it took almost 50 years to be recognized. To the best of my knowledge (things change so quickly) their standards for organic production and accompanying symbol have been adopted exclusively by the European Community. So, it's early days here yet. But it will happen. In the meantime, do your homework yourself and question everything, demand proof of whatever standard the producer is claiming. Do a lot of writing to your local (Green?) MP. For your interest, I don't think the US has nailed this one down yet either.  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
 
 October 20, 2004 3:11 PM

One simple thing you can do is pick and eat the fruit that's growing around the suburbs, and if you've got a surplus take it into work and give it away. I often see fruit rotting under trees.  [ send green star]
 
 October 24, 2005 5:18 AM

i have just returned from germany, where "bio" ist marketed as the equivalent to organic. it is HUGE, but sadly... what is the point to buy "bio" if it is grown by the roadside of very busy highways or in already very polluted areas? catch22 Roxie  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
 
 October 24, 2005 3:07 PM

I think if you don't eat the skin it should be fine. People breathe the same air directly into their lungs each day.  [ send green star]
 
Real food October 25, 2005 6:38 AM

I think that getting to know your suppliers is critical. If you shop locally you know where your food is coming from. The French provincial style of local markets is a good one. We are getting back to that with our Farmers' markets. It also cuts transport costs and cuts out the large supermarkets from raking in high profits. Hopefully this means a more realistic price for the farmers and cheaper prices for the consumers. And, most importantly, REAL food!
Also check out Permaculture and SLOW foods.
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Real Food October 25, 2005 6:40 AM

http://www.slowfood.com/

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