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Work starts on the making of a new organic food standard

09 May, 2007

Work will commence in May on a new Australian Standard for organic food produce - Australia's first domestic Standard to have widespread industry, consumer and government support.

The Australian Standard will provide a framework for the organic industry dealing with production, processing and transportation. It will also provide clear definitions of what is organic and will cover products considered to be unprocessed.

The decision to develop the new Australian Standard has been prompted by the Organic Federation of Australia and a survey of more than 30 organics grower groups, industry bodies, certifier groups, associations, consumer groups, retailer groups and Government organisations.

The survey found majority support for a new Australian Standard with a range of organisations expressing concern at the way the industry currently operates.

While the content of the new Standard is yet to be finalised, it is likely to:

- Deal specifically with unprocessed plants, animals and other cultured organisms for human consumption either directly or after further processing; and
- Specify requirements for primary production, transport and storage, preparation and packaging of organic produce;
- Establish definitions for specific terminology used in the industry to remove ambiguity;
- Specify the requirements necessary for third party certification of the production chain from the farm-gate to the retailer.

According to the Organic Federation of Australia the Australian organic sector was estimated to be worth AUD$400 million in 2005. Production in Australia has been increasing between 6-15% a year while consumption is growing at 25-40% a year.

The organic industry in Australia is currently self-regulated with seven private organic certifying groups, plus several overseas groups.

Each of these groups use a variation of an organics standard developed by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) for export.

It is expected that the new Australian Standard will replace the several variations of the AQIS standard currently being used by growers.

While Standards Australia will develop the new Australian Standard, it will not be involved in the certification of growers or retailers claiming to meet the Standard. That is not Standard Australia's role.

The new Standard will initially be voluntary but could be mandated by regulatory authorities, such as FSANZ, ACCC and the various state food safety and consumer protection authorities.

Standards Australia is going ahead with the development of the new Australian Standard as a result of:

-
A survey conducted among organics grower groups, industry bodies, certifier groups, associations, consumer groups, retailer groups and Government organisations. The survey found majority support for a new Standard.
- Standards Australia's Food Standards Sector Board voted in favour of the new Standard following proposals from the Organic Federation of Australia (OFA) and the AQIS advisory committee, Organic Industry Export Consultative Committee (OIECC).

Concerns from industry will be taken into account during the Standards development process. Through the process of developing the Australian Standard the concerns of all parties will be considered. During the development process a draft of the Australian Standard will be released for public comment.

It is important that those interest significantly affected by the Standard are part of the process.

The Standard is expected to be finalised in 2008.

Organisations invited to be part of the committe developing the new Standard include:
- Australian Food and Grocery Council;
- Bio-Dynamic Agriculture Australia;
- Bio-dynamic Research Institute;
- Consumers' Federation of Australia;
- Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (Commonwealth);
- Department of Primary Industries and Water, Tas;
- National Association of Sustainable Agriculture (NASSA);
- Organic Federation of Australia (-Producers);
- Organic Federation of Australia (-Processors);
- Biological Farmers Australia/Organic Certifiers Australia;
- Organic Industry Export Consultative Committee (OIECC);
- Organic Dairy Farmers Co-operative Ltd;
- Organic Grower's Association of WA;
- Organic Traders & Consumers Network;
- Safe Food Queensland; and
- Australian Retailers Association

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