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New national organic standard announced

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Policy

Organic label on tomato

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A uniform, national approach to organic and biodynamic standards for farmers and producers has been announced, and is hoped to offer a new level of certainty and assurance for eco-minded shoppers.

Up until now, Australian consumers have been faced with up to eight different certification schemes, each imposing slightly different standards and requirements on growers and producers, as well as an abundance of products merely claiming to be 'organic', said John Tucker, CEO of Standards Australia.

"The Australian Standard establishes a uniform framework for...organic and biodynamic products," he said. "Consumers can be sure that products complying with this Standard have been produced following natural, sustainable, ethical and environmentally-responsible farming practices."

The new Organic and Biodynamic Products Australian Standard, which is voluntary, outlines the minimum requirements needing to be met by growers and manufacturers wishing to label their products 'organic' and 'biodynamic', while establishing an agreed set of procedures for everything from producing and transporting them to marketing and labeling.

It is hoped by standardising such practices, the use of unsubstantiated claims on product labels in particular - a growing problem here and overseas - will be able to be combated.

The introduction of the new standard marks an important step forward for the growing organic industry in Australia, Tucker said, and will make choosing Australian organic products that much easier for shoppers.

"With a consistent and national approach to organic production...shoppers should look for certified organic or biodynamic products labelled as complying with [the new Standard] AS 6000 to be confident they have been produced in line with strict organic and biodynamic practices."

Farmers and producers following the Standard will need to have their organic claims verified through an auditing process by an independent, third party certifier to ensure unsubstantiated claims and misinterpretation of the guidelines are avoided.

As well as completely banning genetically modified products and synthetic-chemical based pesticides and fertilisers, the Standard also requires that its guidelines are followed for no less than three years before any products can be labelled organic and biodynamic.

The new Standard has been supported and welcomed by the organic and biodynamic industries.

"The new national Standard will assist in plugging the...gaps in the marketplace where uncertified product, or product with questionable organic integrity claims, have eluded industry and the courts to date," said Andrew Monk, Standards Convenor for Biological Farmers of Australia.

It will not, however, replace all existing standards and certification arrangements, he said, which it already mirrors closely, meaning consumers can still be confident in purchasing products bearing existing certification logos such as Demeter, Australian Certified Organic and Organic Food Chain.

"Significantly, while the new Standard will remain voluntary, it will be, in concert with other relevant standards, a benchmark against which the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission can investigate fraud and mislabeling in the marketplace...[and] will therefore add to the existing arsenal of industry self regulation in place in Australia currently."