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Draft of organic standard out for public comment

Consumers and manufacturers alike can soon be confident that organic products are truly what they seem as the development of an Australian Standard for the organic and biodynamic industry nears completion.

Once finalised, the Australian Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Products will establish one uniform Standard to address industry and government needs and consumer uncertainty around marketing and labelling claims on organic products.

Standards Australia will release the draft Australian Standard for public comment next week.

Developed by a broadly based committee of key stakeholders, the draft Australian Standard stipulates requirements for the production, preparation, transportation, marketing and labelling of organic and biodynamic products. It places particular emphasis on farming and management practices which promote the use of renewable resources and conservation of soil, water and energy resources.

Unprocessed products from plants, animals and fungi such as fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, mushroom and fibres, as well as processed products such as processed food, cosmetics and skincare products which are labelled ‘organic’ are covered in the draft Standard.

Standards Australia deputy CEO, Colin Blair, said the draft establishes minimum requirements to be met by growers and manufacturers for products that can be labelled ‘organic’ or ‘biodynamic’, creating a level playing field for growers, retailers and consumers.

“At the moment, consumers looking to buy organic products have no uniform guarantee of quality and integrity. At the same time, legitimate organic farmers have no protection against the minority of growers misinterpreting or falsely claiming to follow organic agricultural practices,” Blair said.

“By establishing an agreed set of criteria for the way foods and other items labelled as ‘organic’ or ‘biodynamic’ are grown, produced, distributed and marketed, once published this new Australian Standard will clear up confusion for everyone.

“Growers and certifiers already adhering to the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service National Standard will not need to make major changes to their practices if they wish to comply with the voluntary Standard as the AQIS Standard forms the basis of the draft Australian Standard,” Blair said.

The draft Australian Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Products:

• Provides a national, consistent framework for the organic industry from the paddock to point of sale;

• Sets out minimum requirements for growing products which can be labelled as ‘organic’, ‘biodynamic’ or ‘in-conversion’;

• Provides clear definitions about what is organic and what is not;

• Protects consumers against unsubstantiated claims and misleading labelling;

• Protects growers against misinterpretation and misleading use of organic agricultural practices and the term ‘organic’; and

• Provides a guide for farmers considering conversion to organic farming.

The Committee has also developed supporting reference material outlining the certification procedures for growers of organic and biodynamic products.

The draft Australian Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Products and supporting material will be available for public comment from 21 July 2008. Members of the public and interested parties are encouraged to review the documents and provide feedback to Standards Australia by 22 September 2008.

Standards Australia is working towards publishing the Australian Standard by December 2008.

There are currently no laws regulating agricultural practice and management of domestically-sold organic products or the use of marketing claims on organic products.

The Organic and Biodynamic Products Committee includes representatives from:

• Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

• Australian Food and Grocery Council

• Australian National Retailers Association

• Bio-Dynamic Research Institute

• Biodynamic Agriculture Australia

• Biological Farmers of Australia

• CHOICE

• Consumers’ Federation of Australia

• Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (Commonwealth)

• Department of Primary Industries and Water Tasmania

• Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand

• National Association for Sustainable Agriculture

• Organic Dairy Farmers Cooperative

• Organic Federation of Australia

• Organic Growers Association of Western Australia

• Organic Industry Export Consultative Committee

• Organic Traders and Consumers Network

• Safe Food Queensland

Other parties involved in the development of the draft Australian Standard include:

• Aus-Qual

• Australian Certified Organic

• Organic Certified Australia

• Tasmanian Organic-Dynamic Producers

• The Organic Food Chain

To read the draft Standard, visit the Standards Australia website at www.standards.org.au and click on Drafts for Public Comment in the left hand menu.

For further information contact:

Standards Australia

mail@standards.org.au

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