The organic advantage
INDUSTRY NEWS:headwhite>BioFach international fare – Stuffed, pitted, red or sparkling?

Following continued world-wide growth of the organic industry, the world's largest international organic trade fair BioFach is preparing for yet another year of expansion of its exhibition next month in Germany on 21 - 24 February 08.

The exhibition's growth reflects the rapid development of the international organic industry with organic marketing structures particularly well developed in countries like the USA, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria and Great Britain.

Strong demand for organic in heavily populated countries like Germany and the USA is resulting in an increase of conversion to organic agriculture in those countries with a focus on agricultural enterprise. More than 31 million ha of agricultural land are currently certified organic and another 62 million ha are recognized for the collection of products from the wild worldwide. (Helga Willer, Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), Switzerland)

London corporate consultant Organic Monitor says that worldwide spending on organic food in 2007 will top the 40 billion US dollar mark for the first time. Although most of the world’s regions report high growth rates, the largest growth in terms of turnover can be observed in North America and Europe. Organic Monitor predicts that the 60 billion US dollar mark will be reached for worldwide sales in 2010.

New in store at this years' BioFach, organisers have announced is the arrival of the olive-focused Consumers Choice Award. Over 60 exhibitors from 10 countries showcased olive oil last year, and BioFach says there is an increasing amount of organic oil brands on market. The event will feature an Olive Oil Bar for the seventh year in a row, and participants will put dozens of organic olive oil to the taste test.

Organic wine will also be receiving special treatment. For the first time, BioFach will feature a new day-lit hall devoted solely to the international display of organic labels. There were 300 organic wine exhibitors from 13 countries in a record setting 2007, and the competition is expected to increase by a robust 20% in 2008.

Australian Certified Organic in conjunction with BioGro New Zealand will host an Australia/ New Zealand stand at BioFach Germany 21 – 24 February 2008. To register your organic product for display at the world’s premier organic event, contact the BFA office on (07) 3350 5716 or email Companies must be quick as places are filling fast.

AGRIBUSINESS NEWS: Incentives increase for long-term viability farming

Organic farmers are one step ahead as the push to tend land for long-term viability intensifies.

An announcement from Primary Industries Minister Tony Burke is the latest introduction to a growing number of schemes that could see farmers rewarded for protective land stewardship.

Mr. Burke last week stated the government may pay incentives to farmers on marginal or unviable properties who are prepared to modify their farming practises for sustainability; rather than solely drought relief. Mr Burke said climate change was a challenge but could also present opportunities, describing a number of techniques for re-building agricultural land that are more commonly utilised in organic systems.

“Some of the different techniques are moving away from ploughing, and what that has done both for retention of water and for reducing carbon emissions from the soil can create some really significant opportunities,” Mr. Burke said.

And pre-Christmas strengthened support from the Federal Government for a 20% carbon emission reduction target by 2020 could also profit sustainable farmers, according to a CSIRO report commissioned by The Climate Institute (and Agricultural Alliance on Climate Change).

The report stated if higher carbon prices take hold, and there is policy support for renewable energy, rural Australians stand to become valuable service providers in three areas of a low carbon future:
- Providing clean energy and electricity
- Mobilising agricultural mitigation and greenhouse gas offsets
- Supporting environmental stewardship on private land

Nicolette Boele, Director of strategic projects for The Climate Institute says now is the time for smart farmers to start filtering through strategic future possibilities.

“The changing climate makes the business of farming even more risky and unpredictable. Targeted government policy for ecosystem services could give savvy farmers on marginal agricultural land a new source of income - and help build land resilience” she says.

The report found renewable energy offered potentially major financial and other benefits to landholders and rural communities with estimates of potential wind royalties of up to $150 million a year, or more.

Land stewardship, which is currently being trialled by the government, is another area of opportunity, where land owners could be paid for their conservation efforts.

However The Climate Institute says this is subject to significant expansion of the stewardship scheme.

“Essentially the government would have to fund it (land stewardship)” said Ms. Boele.

“The indication is that they’re very interested (in backing sustainability) but we’re waiting for a solid sign of which direction they will go in.”

Mike Gooey, Executive Director of Trust for Nature has witnessed firsthand the merging of profit and land protection, and the rise of what he calls the ‘the eco-speculator.’

Trust for Nature, based in Victoria, aims to extend the state’s conservation areas by focusing on privately owned land. The organisation buys high conservation value land (for example, land that harbours a high proportion of endangered species), apply a conservation covenant to it (meaning it can no longer be used for development purposes in the future) and on-sells the protected result to conservation orientated owners. Many land-owners also seek to protect their land using Trust for Nature conservation covenants.

“We can’t keep up with demand for covenanting properties,” says Mr. Gooey.

“There are some very interesting incentives for conservation. This includes understanding ‘lost income opportunity’. With Trust for Nature conservation covenants the notional loss of value to the land can be assessed by the Australian Tax Office as an income tax deduction.”

That means when you choose to protect your land, there is potential to get back in tax what you might have received from sale of your land if you’d let it be developed.

Mr. Gooey says there are also a lot of questions around gross margins for farmers of the future to be asking.

“For example, can I add an extra ‘X’ amount of dollars per hectare for my conservation efforts?” he says.

“Stewardship payments are happening in some areas. In Victoria there are a few tender programs – one, for example, where land owners are being paid to manage a Stringy Bark habitat for Red-tailed Black Cockatoos and another in the NSW Lachlan area involving Box Gum grassy woodlands.”

“Many farmers and agriculturists haven’t always seen the benefits, but I think that’s changing.”

Trust for Nature -
The Climate Institute -

ENVIRONMENT: Packaging - Keeping it green from paddock to plate

In the last decade the environmentally friendly packaging industry has seen new improved production technology in materials which have become comparatively durable, functional and affordable, without leaving behind the remnants that petro plastics do.

Biodegradable and compostable packaging is a market that offers significant opportunity for organic producers and processors who want to extend the eco-awareness inherent in organic food one step further – however, the benefits should be analysed carefully against potential market pitfalls.

Richard Fine is CEO of Australian packaging supplier BioPak, a producer of packaging products which are compostable, biodegradable and derived from annually renewable resources.

“The market for these bio based materials is expanding due to the increased cost of oil based plastics and government legislation that aims to reduce waste,” he comments.

“The organic sector is currently the primary source of our sales to large retailers, who are essential to the growth of the industry. For example, we supply Coles with biodegradable trays & film for their fresh organic produce.”

Mr Fine admits there is still some work ahead in developing greener packaging for it to more competitively meet market demands on performance and cost.

“The market wants to protect the environment, but not at any cost. The next most important factor is that packaging be beneficial, safe and healthy thoughout its life cycle. Biodegradable packaging is a relatively new industry when compared to petro plastics and does have limitations that are undergoing continual research and development," he says.

“Although the price of some of our products have come down by as much as 40% in the last year, most remain about 2 to 3 times higher than the cost of regular packaging materials. With more manufacturers gearing up to meet demand and the ever increasing cost of petro plastics, it is not too far off that price will no longer be a factor in limiting the use of biopolymers.”

Dr Andrew Monk, Organic Standards Chair of the Biological Farmers of Australia comments on what organic standards require and what the future holds for packaging.

“BFA's member owned Australian Organic Standard like all key international standards around the world has a core principle of reduction of environmental impact and recycling and reusing wherever feasible," says Dr Monk.

"BFA as the leader in standards setting and regulation of organics in Australasia has an equal focus on maintaining a rigorous standard and integrity in organics including packaging, while also ensuring that our industry can deliver on consumer expectations on a sustainable basis.

"We always welcome, encourage and in future will be making mandatory, leading packaging solutions such as biodegradable and compostable packaging that delivers reduction of organics' environmental footprint" he says.

HEALTH: NZ organic soft drink producer confronts cola superpowers

NZ Soil & Health Association:

The Soil & Health Association of NZ is impressed with the Phoenix Organics ‘Think Before You Drink’ anti-aspartame campaign, which reveals the dubious merits of the artificial sweetener on every bottle.

"Having 20,000 bottles of Phoenix Organic Cola with labels highlighting concerns with aspartame, is a great counter to Coca-Cola’s ‘Make Every Drop Matter’ pro-aspartame campaign,” said Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning.

“Soil & Health wants Diet Coke out of all schools in 2008 as a step towards withdrawing aspartame out of all New Zealand food and drinks, and the certified organic Phoenix drinks show there are wholesome alternatives.”

“The New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) continues to claim that aspartame is one of the most studied substances in the world, yet conveniently brushes aside the fact that while all industry-funded studies do not show a problem, the overwhelming majority of independent studies do.”

“Ditching Diet Coke, enjoying organic juices and getting genuine independent research is a great new resolution for New Zealand consumers.”

To read the full press release and related news visit

Aspartame (951, Equal, Nutrasweet) is an artificial sweetener found in over 6000 products including diet drinks, sugar free products, dietary supplements, sports drinks and medications.
Aspartame has been linked to many health symptoms, including those expressed as ADHD, anxiety, depression, irritability, confusion, memory loss, insomnia, dizziness, migraines, cramps, abdominal pain, numbness or tingling of extremities, rashes, chronic fatigue, and sight and personality changes. Organic standards worldwide do not allow Aspartame in certified organic foods and drinks.

GOOD TASTE: Recipe: Chicken with chilli and lemon

Gourmet Organic Herbs (

4 chicken breast
2 GOH Whole Chillies (finely chopped)
1 tsp GOH Oregano
1 tsp GOH Marjoram
1 lemon
100ml olive oil
salt and pepper

To make the marinade; peel the lemon, place in a mortar & pestle and crush with the dry ingredients (Whole Chillies, Marjoram, Oregano, salt & pepper) and oil. Apply this mixture to the chicken and refrigerate for 24 hours. The chicken is best cooked on a skillet for 5 minutes on each side, or until cooked through (don't worry if there is some charring as this works well with the marinade flavour). Serve with green salad and steamed new potatoes.

A last yet essential read to complete your organic advantage -
On summer vacation, Josie and her son, James, went to visit Josie's Uncle Jon who owned a nice farm. While there, Uncle Jon was helping one of his cows give birth, when he noticed his four-year-old Great Nephew, James, standing at the fence, wide-eyed and soaking in the whole event.

Uncle Jon thought to himself: "Great, now I'm gonna have to explain the 'birds and bees' to him. Well, no need to jump the gun. I'll just wait and see if he has any questions, and I'll just answer them as best I can."

After Uncle Jon finished helping the cow with her birthing, he walked over to James and asked him: "Do you have any questions about what you seen here tonight?"

"Just one," the little boy whispered, eyes still wide with wonder. "How fast was that calf going when he hit the cow?"

Your Organic Advantage
Editor: Holly Vyner

Ph: 07 3350 5716 (International +61 7 3350 5716)