Organic standard to boost confidence in industry

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 9th October 2009

Standards Australia has today announced the publication of the first Australian Standard for organic and biodynamic products.

The standard (AS 6000-2009 Organic and biodynamic products) outlines the minimum requirements to be met by growers and manufacturers wishing to label their products ‘organic’ and ‘biodynamic’. It will establish an agreed set of procedures to be followed for the production, preparation, transportation, marketing and labelling of organic and biodynamic products including food and processed food.

The decision to develop the Australian Standard originated from the need to standardise practices within the organic industry because of the growing use of unsubstantiated claims on product labels. It was supported by a survey of organic growers, industry bodies, certifiers, associations, consumer groups, retailers and government organisations.

John Tucker, CEO of Standards Australia, said the publication was a significant step forward for Australia’s burgeoning organic industry.

“The Australian Standard establishes a uniform framework for how to grow, produce, distribute, market and label organic and biodynamic products. Consumers can be sure that products complying with this Standard have been produced following natural, sustainable, ethical and environmentally-responsible farming practices,” he explained.

“Consumers are currently faced with up to eight different organic certification schemes all of which impose different requirements on growers and producers, as well as many non-certified products that claim to be ‘organic’. It’s hardly surprising how difficult it is to know what is actually organic.”

Mr Tucker advised that the Australian Standard will require operators to keep thorough records of their farming and production practices throughout all stages and verify their organic claims through a process of independent, third party certification.

“This will help protect consumers and operators from unsubstantiated claims, misleading labelling and misinterpretation of organic agricultural practices.”

The Standard also requires:
• practices stipulated in the Standard be applied to the land for no less than three years before any products can be labelled organic or biodynamic;
• the almost absolute restriction of pesticides and fertilisers produced from the synthetic chemicals;
• a complete ban on the use of genetically modified products;
• operators have a farm biodiversity and landscape management plan as part of their organic management plan; and
• the use of organic and biodynamic livestock feed for livestock products labelled ‘organic’ or ‘biodynamic’.

The Australian Standard, which is currently voluntary, is based on the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) National Standard for Organic and Bio-dynamic Produce, Edition 3.3, which governs the export industry. Certifiers and operators are not expected to have difficulty aligning with the Australian Standard because of its close alignment to the AQIS Standard.