ORGANIC NEWS HEADLINES
INDUSTRY NEWS: Overflow of submissions likely to delay 'Base Organic Standards' (BOS) release
Development of the ‘Base Organic Standard’ (BOS) by Standards Australia may be extended into the New Year, following overflow of submissions received from industry.
“There was an expectation of finalising this process by December this year. However due to an extraordinary – and unexpected - number of submissions received (some 841 in all, some with multiple submissions attached) the process is likely to be delayed,” says Dr. Andrew Monk, BFA Chair of the Standards Advisory Group and member on the Organic Standards committee (providing assistance to Standards Australia in BOS development).
“The BFA Standards Advisory Group has itself put in a number of submissions on behalf of industry members to ensure that the new BOS delivers on animal welfare and proper nutrition, food safety and quality (wine), as well as clarification on packaging and “natural” food colours and flavours to ensure they meet the expectations of organic consumers while also being practical and meaningful for the broader industry.”
He says such a show of submissions is a good sign the organic industry is serious about the issue of standards setting.
“While it’s undoubtedly frustrating the standard will be delayed, this unexpected influx of submissions shows that there remain fundamental industry-driven changes that need to be made to the existing AQIS standards.
“This is something BFA has been pin-pointing for some years, and it’s critical that the process is kept on track until we get it right”.
He says a new expected completion date for the Base Standards has not been set, but could take until April 2009.
He says it is important industry members realise that while the new standards are designed to aid more effective market prosecution (via ACCC or others) against businesses which do not comply with industry recognized standards, they will not make the certification of all businesses mandatory.
“Regrettably, the BOS will remain a voluntary standard – as all Standards Australia standards are.
“The purpose of a base standard is to enable a ‘whole-of-industry’ approach that may assist both industry, the ACCC and the Courts to prosecute businesses not complying with existing industry expectations,” he says.
“In other words it will remain ‘business as usual’ for the certified organic industry, even with the delayed completion date for the BOS.
“And – as always – it will remain imperative consumers be educated to recognise and look for marks denoting organic certification like the now widely displayed Australian Certified Organic ‘Organic Bud’.
“The Bud is a good example of how a recognisable and simple ‘mark’ for organic integrity can also assist in harmonising standards, while taking the consumer and marketers into consideration.”
“In recent years the Bud has become a valuable tool for major retailers, who now utilise it on their own branded organic product lines as the most convenient means of involvement in the certified organic industry.”
He says BFA will continue to work with retailers and the broader marketplace to ensure there is no confusion over non-certified and/or non compliant products.
“We are planning a significant ramp up in consumer and retailer promotion and education in the 2009 year to further reinforce to consumers the need to “look for the certification logo”.
“This is just as important to industry development as establishing a common BOS.
“The BFA maintains its Australian Organic Standard and, similar to the UK Soil Association, will put considerable efforts and resources into standards setting above and beyond the base ‘safety net’ standard.”
Updated BFA Australian Organic Standard (2009) due for comment early in 2009
A first draft with tracked changes of the AOS will be out for comment now in early 2009.
“This is the document that businesses ultimately are certified to,” says Dr. Monk.
“The AOS will continue to improve on both domestic and international certification needs, for both small and large operators; and will integrate current AOS additions including an expanded cosmetics and farmers’ markets sections which have been listed on the BFA website in the past year (see http://www.bfa.com.au/index.asp?Sec_ID=135).
“ACO has direct accreditation for access to such markets as the US, and Japan and remains the only certifier in Australia accredited under the new Japanese provisions that come into play in 2009.
“ACO will achieve Canadian accreditation in the coming period leading up to changes to that market, while also maintaining IOAS (ISO 65 and IFOAM) accreditation. This will also position it well with the changes occurring in the EU regulations in the coming year.”
“Small grower programs, including OGA as well as FreshCare will also remain in place to service the domestic market.”
BFA members and stakeholders are welcome to post comments into this process through this time. To visit the proposed standard changes go to: http://www.bfa.com.au/index.asp?Sec_ID=135. To comment on the standard email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
AGRIBUSINESS: Australian organic producer first in world to satisfy new Japanese Standards; Australian Certified Organic only JAS accredited certifier from February 2009; Register your interest in NOP training for products to US market
An Australian Certified Organic (ACO) meat producer has become the first in the world to comply with Japan’s new organic livestock standard.
Matthew and Julie O’Leary, beef producers from Australian Organic Meats in NSW have out-stripped Japan’s own farmers to become the first meat supplier ever to match the stringent
criteria of the recently developed Japanese Agriculture Standard (JAS) for livestock.
“I’m pretty pleased – and a bit surprised,” says Mr. O’Leary.
“We had no idea we were the first in the world until we attended this year’s BioFach (international organic exhibition) in Japan and everyone got excited about it.”
“We only just became certified in time for the event – we received our certificates the day we arrived over there!”
Currently, the livestock standard is “non-mandatory” regulation in Japan, and most organic meat suppliers to Japan conform to a general National Standard for Organic and Bio-Dynamic Produce.
But regulators anticipate high demand for JAS certified organic meat in the next few years, as the JAS logo is more widely recognised by Japanese consumers.
“Compliance to the new standard is not compulsory for organic meat exporters to Japan yet – but it is highly likely it will be in the future, and we are now that one step ahead,” says Mr. O’Leary.
He says despite the administrative effort involved in meeting the new measures, there was never an issue of production quality.
“We were able to conform relatively quickly because we were operating at a high level under Australian standards already.”
“There were a few significant differences in what the Japanese regulators now require – documents proving there is adequate land for animals to range on, graze and so on, and every link had to be certified to JAS standards – from the animal feed, to the farm, to the abattoir, to processing.”
“As far as the land and use of chemicals went, it wasn’t a problem – just a matter of getting together the right paperwork because Australia is naturally suited to high-quality organic livestock production.”
Mr. O’Leary says demand for organic in Japan is becoming stronger.
“The Japanese consumer is looking for a safe product - they’ve had a few scares with product coming out of China – and typically, the natural progression from safe food is organic food.”
“We’ve been involved in the Japanese market for six years and it’s always been steady – but I think the time is coming where we will see a noticeable increase in demand for organic product from Japan.”
He says organic meat in Japan is seen as a premium item with strong opportunity for beef.
“There is some opportunity for lamb, but from what I’ve seen, it’s the beef market that will grow first.”
For now, he says he is happy to sit back and see what sort of response a ‘world-first’ will bring.
“We’re very pleased to get here in the end and it will be interesting to see how the response from recent tradeshows translates.”
INDUSTRY UPDATE: ACO the only certifier recognised by JAS from February 2009
From February 2009, ACO will officially be the only certification body who can provide JAS accredited certification in Australia.
“Since 2006, new JAS regulations for organic have meant ACO has been the only JAS accredited certification body in Australia, however JAS clients serviced by other certification organisations were give a three year transition period in which they could still operate,” says ACO Certification Director, Ms. Akiko Nicholls.
“This transition period will end on the 28th February 2009. From this date, if an operator is not JAS certified under ACO they will be unable to continue producing JAS certified product; and product will not be accepted by Japanese importers.”
“Effectively, operators who are currently JAS certified under another certification body will automatically lose their JAS status at this time.”
Ms. Nicholls says organic opportunity in Japan is growing slowly - “Australian product is popular because it is perceived by Japanese consumers as clean and green and safe, with minimal GM contamination risk.”
Knowing your export market for certification a must
Ms. Nicholls says it is essential producers who are looking to export are aware early on which markets they will require certification for.
“For example, many Australian meat processors will require suppliers to meet either NOP (US) or JAS (Japan) organic criteria,” she says.
“It takes three years for producers starting from scratch to become ‘A’ grade Australian Certified Organic.
“However, there are differences in operations for producers wanting to comply to NOP or JAS, particularly where inputs and feed are concerned.
“NOP and JAS standards generally also require compliance for three years – so for most effective management producers should operate to relevant export market criteria from the start.
“Producers should raise this with their organic certification body as early as possible to avoid disappointment."
For more information contact the Australian Certified Organic office at: email@example.com
Register your interest in NOP Training
Producers interested in getting involved in NOP training to learn more about the USDA standards for organic are invited to submit expressions of interest.
Ms. Akiko Nicholls, Director of Australian Certified Organic says the course will provide operators with a more in depth understanding of the vital differences required for those who
wish to export, or are currently exporting, Australian organic product to the US.
“The NOP training courses give participants a comprehensive overview of the USDA standards, highlighting the areas producers need to be most aware of.
“There will be some critical points of difference for operators complying to NOP standards, including working out which inputs and feed products are safely recognised under USDA
(United States Department of Agriculture) organic standards.
NOP training courses operate on the basis of demand and a minimum number of participants must be obtained for courses to run.
To register your interest contact Akiko Nicholls at firstname.lastname@example.org or ph 07 3350 5706 ext 228.
Latest news for NOP certified operators
Most recently, the USDA has published a proposed new regulation clarifying the role of pasture in the production of organic ruminants.
An overview of the proposed regulation states:
- The term ‘growing season’ must be defined, with all animals over the age of six months required to be on
pasture through this season.
- Animals must receive 30% of their dry-matter intake from pasture.
- The term "temporary confinement" and clarification of periods of temporary confinement will be defined.
- A pasture practise standard that addresses the management of pasture as a crop will be outlined
The regulation is open for comment until December 23rd 2008. The proposed regulations can be found on the N.O.P. website: www.ams.usda.gov/nop under "Today’s News."
ENVIRONMENT: Marine life the latest fan of organic farming
From benthic invertebrates to fish, crustaceans and other organisms, the underworld inhabitants of Australia’s marine system will fare better under a future that considers more widespread
uptake of organic farming.
According to the ‘2007 Water Quality Report for the Great Barrier Reef’ – released last week - most of the nutrient loads which damage underwater eco-systems come from agricultural land use that increases fertiliser and pesticide run-off into marine systems (1).
Organic farms have no hand in synthetic farm chemicals that make their way to Australia’s coast, and are actively addressing Australia’s water quality and estuary issues, says BFA Director, Dr. Andrew Monk.
“Organic farms prohibit the use of synthetic farm chemicals which are ending up in our waterways.
“And organic land is less likely to suffer from erosion because organic systems are serious about better perennial ground-cover.”
The Water Quality Report found chemicals were most likely to enter Australian waterways through soil that was swept away or eroded; or through run-off in high rainfall areas.
“For this reason, organisms and habitats which suffer most from agriculture can only benefit from a decrease in farm chemical use and an increase in organic production - where stringent standards exist to regulate production in an environmental context,” says Dr. Monk.
Recent reports on the health of the Great Barrier Reef found 16,600 tonnes of nitrogen and 4,180 tonnes of phosphorous were making their way to the protected area each year.
National figures estimate 141,000 tonnes of nitrogen and 19,000 tonnes of phosphorus are exported down rivers each year from areas of intensive agriculture – twice and three times the nutrient load of Australian rivers since pre-European settlement respectively (2).
The Water Quality Report found Queensland’s Burdekin catchment was responsible for most of the nutrient damage currently inflicted on the Great Barrier Reef, contributing to 48% of total nitrogen
and 64% of total phosphorus input.
Rhonda Pirrone, organic mango grower from Ayr (Burdekin catchment) says the environmental potential of organic practices to contribute to better water ecology and quality was evident.
“Organic systems simply do not put in the nutrients that eventually end up in water ways and run-off is also reduced because of a natural increase of protective vegetation where no herbicides are
The report said studies have connected loss of inshore reef biodiversity to adjacent areas of intensive agriculture; and said high toxicity levels in marine organisms from several commonly used pesticides was recorded.
(1) 2007 Water Quality Report Great Barrier Reef catchments and inshore ecosystems, Reef water quality partnership QLD Government Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.epa.qld.gov.au/publications?id=2640
(2) Australian Agriculture Assessment 2001: http://www.anra.gov.au/topics/agriculture/pubs/national/agriculture_nutrient_loads.html
For more information contact the BFA media department on (07) 3350 5716 ext. 222 E: email@example.com
HEALTH: With every organic bite - why flavonoids are affecting your future
It’s no surprise by now to learn that organic fruit and veg is high-value for your health, with a comprehensive overview of studies comparing organic and non-organic
foods released this year finding organic plant based foods are on average, 25% more nutrient dense.
But what can ‘nutrient dense’ actually do for you?
Nutrients accounted for within the report (State of Science Review - Nutritional Superiority of Plant-based Organic Foods) included antioxidants, polyphenols and flavonoids.
This month, take an up-close look at the research that’s finding new reasons flavonoids can favour your future health:
A heart that ticks
*According to findings from a study by the University of Grenoble in March this year, flavonoids keep the heart younger. Study author, Maria Benedetta Donati, found rats fed an anthocyanin-intensive diet were at less risk of heart attack.
Anthocyanins – part of the flavonoid class - give flowers, fruits, and leaves of some plants their red or blue colour. High levels are found in blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, cherries, eggplant peel, red wine and red cabbage. Anthocyanins are less copious in banana, asparagus, peas, fennel, pears and potat.
A very high amount of anthocyanins has been recorded in the seed coat of black soybean, with a seperate study suggesting black soybean seed coat could be a potentially useful drug to modulate cardiovascular disorder.
Anthocyanins could be one reason a Mediterranean diet is high on health. Report authors stated anthocyanin content of a Mediterranean menu were significantly more than the standard western diet, where total flavonoid consumption was relatively low.
Conclusion: Paint your next dinner red.
Better brain food
*Researchers at the University of Illinois reported in May this year that luteolin - a plant flavonoid abundant in celery and green peppers – can disrupt inflammation in the brain, with implications for diseases like Alzheimers and multiple sclerosis.
Inflammation plays a major role in many neurodegenerative diseases and is a key factor in cognitive and behavioural impairments in aging. Researchers found cells that were
exposed to luteolin showed a significantly diminished inflammatory response, with the flavonoid also decreasing inflammation in the hippocampus, a brain region crucial to memory.
“If we you had the potential to decrease the production of inflammatory proteins in the brain you could potentially limit the cognitive deficits that result including
restrictions to certain types of learning and memory,” stated report authors.
Conclusion: Organic greens, anyone?
*Flavonoids have also been associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer among post-menopausal women.
The results of a benchmark Long Island breast cancer study project conducted among women in New York in the mid ‘90’s found breast cancer risk was reduced parallel with the
highest percentages of flavonoid intake, suggesting food high in the compounds could have a chemoprotective effect on women.
“Flavonoids have demonstrated the ability to inhibit tumor cell proliferation and the formation of reactive oxygen species all of which are mechanisms thought to influence
breast cancer development,” stated report authors.
The flavonoids studied included flavan-3-ols (found in most teas, and some cocoas and chocolate); and lignans (especially abundant in sesame seeds).
Further studies have also linked a reduction in the incidence of ovarian cancer with increased consumption of dietary flavonoids.
Researchers from the Harvard public school of health last year found the flavonoid kaempferol (found in spinach, some cabbages, and tea) was associated with decreased ovarian cancer risk. Those with diets containing highest levels of kaempferol displayed a significant 38% decrease in the incidence of the disease.
"The associations were stronger when exposure was defined as cumulative average flavonoid intake over a period of 14 years, which suggests that long-term intake of flavonoids may be important," stated the report.
Conclusion: Tea and chocolate can now be more than a treat.
The research is just a few more reasons for organic consumers - one quarter ahead of the pack on essential nutrients - to smile.
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