Organic Federation of Australia
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Organic Update

The Peak Body for the Australian Organic Sector

Chairs Report

ACCC Supports the Australian Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Products

The Organic Federation of Australia is very appreciative of the financial support from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for ongoing development and promotion of the Australian Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Products.

The ACCC has contributed $216,000 to the OFA to promote the new Australian Standard to consumers, retailers and the organic sector as well as its continued development to protect the integrity of products labelled as organic. This level of support shows that the ACCC is very serious that products labelled as organic have to comply to the new Australian Standard

The fact that this money was part of a settlement for misleading labelling will send a message that certifying products to the new Australian Standard will be the most cost effective way to ensure the integrity of organic products. It shows that the ACCC is prepared to put resources into prosecuting fraud and protecting Australian consumers

As the peak industry body for the Australian organic and biodynamic sector, the Organic Federation of Australia (OFA) has spent over two years working in partnership with the government and the Australian organic and biodynamic sector on this project.

An Australian organic standard will provide the organic industry with a uniform national benchmark for the production and the marketing of organic produce on the domestic market. Once developed, this standard can be used by government agencies such as the ACCC to ensure compliance against misleading and deceptive practices for organic products sold on the domestic market including imported products. For the first time there will be uniform requirements for the export and domestic markets in Australia.

Best Regards
Andre Leu

Australian Organic News

Nationally Accredited Organic Qualifications
TAFE colleges and other Tertiary institution can now offer a Diploma of Agriculture and/or a Certificate IV in Agriculture that specialises in organic agriculture. These nationally accredited course competencies have been developed by the OFA Education Committee of Cheryl Kemp, Liz Clay and Andre Leu with extensive work by Michael Williams from Orange TAFE in NSW.

The details about the RTE03 Rural Production Training Package on, RTE40103 Certificate IV in Agriculture Specialising in Organic Production and RTE50103 Diploma of Agriculture Specialising in Organic Production can be found at:

The next step will entail writing the course materials.

Farmers to be Paid for Soil Carbon
Dr Christine Jones from Carbon for Life has negotiated Australia’s first carbon credit scheme, where farmers will get paid for increasing the carbon levels in their soils. This trial scheme will financially reward a group of Western Australian farmers who sequester greenhouse gases from the atmosphere into their soil. The scheme was a result of the series of Carbon Forums held around Australia. The OFA was actively involved in these important events that will help in reducing one of the causes of climate change.

World Organic News

FAO Promotes the Benefits of Organic Agriculture
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) held its International Conference on Organic Agriculture and Food Security in Rome. FAO noted that "organic agriculture has the potential to secure a global food supply, just as conventional agriculture is today, but with reduced environmental impact." The Conference report Stated "The strongest feature of organic agriculture is its reliance on fossil-fuel independent and locally-available production assets; working with natural processes increases cost-effectiveness and resilience of agro-ecosystems to climatic stress. Organic agriculture also breaks the vicious circle of indebtedness for agricultural inputs which causes an alarming rate of farmers' suicides."

One Label for Organic Produce in EU
The European Union Parliament has mandated a labelling system for organic produce. Produce containing at least 95 percent organic ingredients will have to use a special EU logo, along with a label to indicate the product's origin. Below that, there will be labelling of the organic ingredients present.

Organic and Fair Trade Increases
A new study in the United Kingdom shows that over 37% of those surveyed are willing to pay more for organic and Fair Trade products, up significantly from 24% in 2002. The Daily Mail reports, "Changes are being driven by concern about global warming and exploitation of the developing world." U.K. organic food sales are forecast to exceed £1.7 billion (almost US $3.4 billion) this year compared to £849 million in 2004.

Organic Systems can Achieve High Yields
The long term Rodale Institute comparison trial between conventional and organic systems has found the organic system delivers higher yields when the soil is improved. Decades of soil improvements produce better soil quality and allow organic corn production to move beyond yield parity with conventional systems. Very importantly the organic corn had better resilience in drought and wet years.

New Organic Herbicide
A new organic herbicide has been registered in the USA. The product uses the citrus oil extract, d-limonene. It kills weeds by stripping the protective wax coating from their leaves. The manufacturers say it gives better results and is more cost effective than vinegar, soap and oil-based products.

Health News

Nitrites in Cured Meats Linked to Lung Disease
Researchers have found that people who frequently eat cured meats such as ham, hot dogs and bacon face a higher risk of lung disease. The researchers linked nitrites added as common food preservatives as a possible cause.

People who ate cured meat products at least 14 times a month were 78 per cent more likely to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease than people who did not eat these meats, even after the researchers sought to account for many other risk factors including smoking, overall diet and age.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease refers to emphysema and chronic bronchitis, which interfere with normal breathing. Earlier research has linked nitrites to cancer of the pancreas.

Nitrites are highly toxic and are added to food as a poison that kills micro organisms. Nitrites are prohibited in the Australian Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce. Source: The Age May 05 2007

German Consumers Want Zero Pesticides in Food.
71 % of German consumers want fruit and vegetables to be completely free of pesticide residues. Only 2 % of the consumers interviewed in a representative survey do not regard pesticide residues in fruit and vegetables as a problem.

The survey was conducted on behalf of Greenpeace in February and April 2007. Greenpeace is calling for the German Federal and State governments to introduce better controls to prevent all kinds of fruit and vegetables exceeding the pesticide limits in the short term and reduce the use of pesticides in Germany by 50 % within the next five years. Source:

Pesticide News

Pesticides Linked to Brain Tumors
French researchers have found that exposed vineyard workers and people who used pesticides on houseplants on a regular basis are three times more likely to suffer from brain tumors than less-exposed individuals. "Brain tumours and exposure to pesticides: a case-control study in southwestern France" assessed exposure of more than 200 patients and 400 matched controls. The research paper was published in the
Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Pesticide Contaminate Californians
Residents of Lindsay, Tulare County, released a study May 16 that shows their bodies are being contaminated by an agricultural pesticide that has already been banned for residential use. The community members tested their air during the summers of 2004-2006 with PAN's Drift Catcher monitoring device, and detected high levels of the organophosphate chlorpyrifos in the air around their homes. That discovery was followed by complementary biomonitoring research to test for evidence of chlorpyrifos in their bodies. The results show all but one of those tested had higher levels of a chlorpyrifos breakdown chemical in their urine than the level US EPA considers safe for pregnant women and children. Chlorpyrifos is a neurotoxin linked to problems in brain development and is suspected of triggering asthma in people who have never suffered from respiratory problems before. Source:

Another Study Links Pesticides to Parkinson's Disease
University of Aberdeen researchers report that exposure to high levels of pesticides appears linked to a 39% increase in Parkinson's disease, a degenerative and incurable brain disorder that now afflicts 1-in-500 British citizens. The study of 959 Parkinson's sufferers, published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, reported that pesticide exposure appears to pose a greater risk than family history

Paraquat Linked to Parkinson's Disease
More studies have been published that show a causal link between the herbicide Paraquat and Parkinson’s Disease. One study shows that farm workers who used paraquat had two to three times the normal risk of Parkinson's, a degenerative brain disease that eventually paralyzes patients.

A second study shows that animals exposed to paraquat have a build-up of a protein called alpha-synuclein in their brains. This protein has been linked to Parkinson's in the past.

A third piece of the puzzle shows that this buildup of protein kills the same brain cells affected in Parkinson's.

"All of these pieces really look like they are coming together now," Dr. William Langston, founder of the non-profit Parkinson's Institute, told Reuters. Drugs can delay symptoms for a while but there is no effective long term management treatment and no cure. Source: Reuters

Lawn Chemicals, Breast Cancers Linked
A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology compared 1,508 women with newly diagnosed breast cancer and 1,556 women without breast cancer. The Long Island, New York women, were questioned about their activities during 1996-1997, and found that "the use of lawn and garden pesticides was associated with an approximate 40% increased risk in developing breast cancer." The dose was not a determinant since any exposure to the pesticides seemed to increase the risk of developing cancer. The researchers have called for "use of non-chemical alternatives for pest control." Source:

Long-Term Study Documents Pesticides to Illness
Prostate cancer, lung cancer, diabetes, multiple myleoma, leukemia and other health effects occur more in people who are exposed to pesticides routinely than the general population, according to the Agricultural Health Study, a collaborative effort between the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), and U.S. EPA. The AHS is tracking 90,000 participants over 14 years so far, with the study expected to continue for another ten years.

Pesticide Breakdown Residues Killing Frogs
One of the biggest mythologies perpetuated about the current generation of pesticides is that they break down quickly in the environment and in our food, leaving no harmful residues. In reality the breakdown products of many pesticides can be significantly more toxic than the pesticide.

Researchers at Southern Illinois University (SIU), Carbondale and the U.S. Geological Survey's Western Ecological Research Center suggest that the breakdown products of three common organophosphate pesticides (OPs), chlorpyrifos, malathion and diazinon "are 10-100 times more toxic to amphibians than their parent compounds." The pesticides have been implicated in the declines of the California red-legged frog, Cascades frog, and yellow-legged frog. "… the higher toxicity of the breakdown products poses a serious problem," said study co-author Dr. Gary Fellers. Dr. Donald Sparling, a contaminants specialist at SIU, noted that "even in pristine areas of the Sierra Nevada Mountains," OPs are serious hazards to the survival of these native amphibians. The study was published in the journal Environmental Pollution.

GMO News

EU Mandates 0.9% GMOs in Organic Foods
The European Union Parliament has mandated a new law allowing up to 0.9 percent content of GMOs accidental or unavoidable contamination in organic products. This is despite the intense opposition by the European organic sector to this law.

Australian Study on GM Canola could end Organic Canola
A study by the Australian Bureau of Resource Economic (ABARE) has stated that the commercialisation of GM canola in Australia is likely to have only negligible direct impacts on the organic canola, livestock and honey industries.

The OFA is extremely concerned as the report underplays the effect of pollen drift over several kilometers contaminating non GM crops. The contamination of organic canola will result in the loss of its organic status and the loss of many of the markets that have zero tolerance to products that are contaminated with GMO genes.

GM Lucerne Stopped by US Courts
The temporary ban imposed in March by a US federal judge on Monsanto's plans to plant genetically engineered alfalfa (Lucerne) was made permanent May 3rd. The Center for Food Safety (CFS) had filed suit on behalf of organic farmers concerned that Monsanto's GM alfalfa designed to allow heavier use of its herbicide Roundup could contaminate their crops. The decision places the U.S. Department of Agriculture in charge of monitoring and disclosing to the public where Monsanto has planted the GM alfalfa so organic and conventional alfalfa growers may test their own crops for contaminated with GM seed. "This permanent halt to the planting of this risky crop is a great victory for the environment," said Will Rostov, an attorney with CFS. "Roundup Ready alfalfa poses threats to farmers, to our export markets, and to the environment. We expect the USDA to abide by the law and insure that American farmers are protected from genetic contamination." Source: Organic Consumers Association

Organic Update is a publication of the Organic Federation of Australia
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PO Box 369 Bellingen NSW 2454 Australia