INDUSTRY NEWS:Australian organics popular at BioFach Japan

Aussies stood out amongst the crowds at BioFach Japan 2006 this year. Australia provided the second-largest group of exhibitors after Germany, comprising of 22 companies. Half of these exhibitors had their own section at the event, with the other half being represented under the banner of Australian Certified Organic.

BioFach Japan, the all-organic annual trade fair in Tokyo, this year joined forces with two other leading events, Natural Expo and Natural Products Expo Japan. 16,346 trade visitors attended the three-day event, a rise of some 20 per cent on last year. Feedback from exhibitors and visitors alike was very positive.

On the Australian stands there were Japanese interpreters on site and banners and information displayed Japanese characters as well as English. All were professionally represented and distinct expressions of delight could be heard from Japanese crowding around to taste Australian produce.

On the Australian Certified Organic stand several companies made excellent contacts. The interest in juices and soft drinks was particularly high. Cathy from Wort Organics soft drink company said “We couldn’t have hoped for a better response to our products. It is the first time we have tried the Japanese market and it may be the only marketing we ever have to do here. They particularly liked the unsweetened drink; however all were popular.”

Feedback from visitors to the stand indicated that labeling and packaging was most important, followed by the quality of the product. Those products that had “cute” and well-presented packaging were most popular and some potentially excellent contacts were made for kid’s snack food company Nourish as well as the beautifully labeled skincare products of Harmony Harvest.

Although many good contacts were made, the Japanese market can’t be underestimated for its complexity in doing business. Companies now have the next more difficult step ahead of them of getting to the contract and sale stage.

Australian Certified Organic was fortunate to be able to provide extra confidence to traders as one of only four companies outside of Japan accredited under new strict Japanese laws for certification to the Japanese Agricultural Standard (JAS). A seminar on the Australian Organic Market and JAS by Akiko Nicholls, ACO Certification Manager, indicated a high interest in JAS certified products in Australia. The JAS mark is required for export of all products covered under the JAS organic standards, except where the importer already carries JAS certification. ACO is also accredited to certify to the new JAS organic livestock and livestock feed standards. While it is a voluntary certification it is expected to gain popularity following BSE scares and food safety concerns.

Reports from many residents in Tokyo were that while organics still remains a relatively small market in Japan, interest in healthy food is increasing rapidly. Perhaps this is in response to the proliferation of fast-food and unhealthy diets previously unknown, which have arrived with Western influence in recent years.

BioFach, Nuremberg, 15-18 February 2007
BioFach, the World Organic Trade Fair held in Nuremberg in February each year brings together approximately 2,100 exhibitors - two thirds from abroad - and more than 37,000 trade visitors from over 110 countries. BioFach is held under the patronage of International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) and applies strict admission criteria to guarantee the constantly high quality of the products on display.

Australian Certified Organic will coordinate a stand at the event and is looking for certified organic companies interested in having their products displayed at the event. Please contact Holly Vyner on 07 3350 5716 or email

AGRIBUSINESS NEWS: CSIRO Report: Biologically healthy soil fundamental

The following extracts from the CSIRO newsletter summarise two recent reports on biological farming. To read the full reports visit

CSIRO Sustainability Network Update, No. 61E, 14 Sept, 2006
The two features in this Update examine in-depth the conceptual changes under way in farming systems. The trend is away from analytical science as the primary source of ‘expert’ farm advice, and towards greater respect for alternative, traditional, integrative and experiential knowledge. Analytical science remains an important part of the mix, but is increasingly seen in a supportive rather than dominant role. Recognition is growing that mainstream mechanised ‘factory’ farming is running our ecosystems down over time – that greater notice needs to be taken of ‘old’ and ‘different’ methods with proven longer-term sustainability records. Recognition is also growing that biologically healthy soil is a more fundamental element of the farming system than has been generally recognised. Considered together, these trends represent a welcome return of the ‘good farmer’ to the role of expert land manager and vital provider. Now, if we can just get good farmers’ terms of trade to reflect this trend …!

Soil Fertility Management – Towards Sustainable Farming Systems and Landscapes
Dr Maarten – is a farming systems agronomist with CSIRO Plant Industry. This feature is adapted from a presentation to the 2006 National Organic Conference of the Organic Federation of Australia.

In a nutshell: Soil fertility is the capacity to receive, store and transmit energy to support plant growth. These processes require healthy soils – living, self-organising systems with physical, chemical and biological components all functioning and in balance. Continuous use of acidic or salty synthetic fertilisers, insecticides, fungicides and herbicides disrupts this delicate balance. Organic Farming has recognised this, but needs to follow its leaders to active soil fertility management. Carbon, in particular, is of critical importance and needs to be maximised through capture with solar energy through photosynthesis by green plants, and optimum storage and use in the soil. Before we can hope to improve systems, however, we need to understand (1) why they are the way they are, and then (2) how science and practice can help to actively manage soil biology to improve and maintain soil fertility, and achieve more sustainable, healthy and productive farming systems – even on our fragile Australian soils in a highly variable and changing climate.

Sustainable agriculture: what it is, what it is not, and making it pay?
Greg Donoghue BSc DipCrim is co-founder and Managing Director of Eco Organics a privately owned environmental company based in Melbourne –

In a nutshell: Modern agricultural and technology methods are presenting potentially disastrous problems to our survival. Sustainable and less problematic approaches exist, but have not been demonstrated to be profitable and practical on the large scale. Greg Donoghue’s contention is that sustainability will not be achieved unless they are adopted on a broad scale, and for this to occur, they must be profitable. This article reviews the consequences of our current approach, alternative approaches including Natural Sequence Farming and Soil Foodweb, and builds the foundation for an integrated model which can demonstrate both sustainability and profitability.

ENVIRONMENT: An Inconvenient Truth

The film An Inconvenient Truth is running in cinemas around the world including in Australia. The film is receiving 5 star ratings from movie critics worldwide. Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun-Times wrote “In 39 years, I have never written these words in a movie review, but here they are: You owe it to yourself to see this film. If you do not, and you have grandchildren, you should explain to them why you decided not to.”

The film offers a “passionate and inspirational look at one man's fervent crusade to halt global warming's deadly progress in its tracks by exposing the myths and misconceptions that surround it. That man is former Vice President Al Gore, who, in the wake of defeat in the 2000 election, re-set the course of his life to focus on a last-ditch, all-out effort to help save the planet from irrevocable change.”

“With wit, smarts and hope, An Inconvenient Truth ultimately brings home Gore's persuasive argument that we can no longer afford to view global warming as a political issue - rather, it is the biggest moral challenges facing our global civilization.”

The film’s official website includes ways in which people can reduce their impact on climate change at home. It makes the point that since agriculture is responsible for about a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, you can reduce your emissions simply by watching what you eat.

Some of the advice given in relation to food includes:
Buy locally grown and produced foods -
The average meal in the United States travels 1,200 miles from the farm to your plate. Buying locally will save fuel and keep money in your community.

Buy organic foods as much as possible -
Organic soils capture and store carbon dioxide at much higher levels than soils from conventional farms. If we grew all of our corn and soybeans organically, we’d remove 580 billion pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere!

Avoid heavily packaged products -
You can save 1,200 pounds of carbon dioxide if you cut down your garbage by 10%.

To read more about the film and other ways in which you can reduce your impact, visit


HEALTH: Pesticide link to cancer

The following is an extract from the article Say No to Cancer by Shane Heaton in Australian Organic Journal Spring Edition available through BFA membership, via subscription and from Macro Wholefood Stores.

It is widely accepted that at least one-third of all cancers are preventable (smoking and sun-related cancers). But there is also growing awareness, and indeed evidence, of a link between cancer incidence and the pollutants, pesticides and chemicals in our environment.

Yet linking long-term, low-level exposure to something we cannot see with ill health decades down the track is difficult. Many suspect the strongest evidence for harm is in hormone disruption.

Pesticides (xeno-estrogens) mimic the hormone oestrogen, potentially disrupting the fine hormonal balance in our bodies, and may be why hormone-related cancers such as breast, prostate, ovarian and testicular cancers are all more common now than in the past.

Of course, diet is not the only route of exposure to pesticides. Non-organic agriculture also involves occupational exposures for farm workers and results in environmental contamination that we are all exposed to.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ranks pesticide residues among the top three environmental cancer risks. Just last year, research conducted by the US National Cancer Institute highlighted an increased risk of prostate cancer in farmers and farm workers.

A thorough review of pesticide research by The Ontario College of Family Physicians in 2004 found “many studies show positive associations between solid tumours and pesticide exposure, including brain cancer, prostate cancer, kidney cancer and pancreatic cancer, among others”.

“It is clear,” they say, “that an association exists between pesticide exposure and leukaemia … warranting further investigation and also political action.”

They reviewed several studies that found links between pesticide exposures and cancer in children. Key findings included an elevated risk of kidney cancer in children linked to paternal pesticide exposure through agriculture.

Four studies found associations with brain cancer, while other studies revealed an increased risk of acute leukemia in children exposed to pesticides in utero or during childhood, especially for exposure to insecticides and herbicides used on lawns, fruit trees and gardens, and for indoor control of insects. (The full report can be downloaded for free at

European research confirms childhood cancer, while still rare, has been slowly increasing over the past three decades and at an increasing rate. Evidence of a pesticide-cancer link continues to mount from around the world.

An increase in genetic damage was observed in Danish greenhouse workers handling plants that had been treated with any of 50 different compounds. American researchers have identified a link between higher cancer mortality rates in four northern states and a herbicide used on wheat.

Women in Hawaii with high exposure to pesticides through groundwater have very high rates of breast cancer, a connection confirmed by a Danish study following 717 women over 20 years which “supported the hypothesis that exposure to xeno-oestrogens may increase the risk of breast cancer”.

In fact, one of the strongest links demonstrated so far is between pesticides and breast cancer. In 1992, Dr Frank Falck of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine found that women with breast cancer carried much higher body burdens of pesticides than women who did not have breast cancer.

In a follow-up study Dr Mary Wolff, of the Mt Sinai School of Medicine in New York, found that women with the highest levels of pesticides in their bloodstreams had four times the breast cancer risk than those women with the lowest levels.

A 2003 study by Belgian toxicologist Dr Charles Charlier in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found the same thing: women diagnosed with breast cancer were six to nine times more likely to have the pesticides DDT or hexachlorobenzene in their bloodstreams than women who did not have breast cancer.

Closer to home, researchers at Melbourne’s Monash University collected 800 samples of breast milk from around Victoria during the 1990s. Their initial findings, that many infants were exposed to multiple pesticides in their mothers’ breast milk above accepted safety levels, were disturbing enough.

Yet more than a decade later, PhD student Dr Narges Khanjani used these samples to identify areas of high breast milk pesticide contamination in Victoria and compared it to the cancer data. “We found that the Ovens and Murray Shire was the most highly contaminated region, AND it showed the highest incidences of breast cancer compared with any other area in Victoria,” Dr Khanjani said.

GOOD TASTE: Fine Food Australia a treat

Last month on 11-13 September, the Fine Food Australia exhibition ran alongside Hotel Australia exhibition as well as Fine Wine & Spirits in a major food trade event filling the entire Melbourne Exhibition Centre. Altogether there were 912 exhibitors visited by a whopping number of 30,735 people over the four days.

The BFA / ACO exhibited as the only organic industry representative body at the show. This year's stand was constantly filled with people seeking to taste quality and award-winning products such as Rosnay organic wines, Highland Organics cheese and Australian Harvest’s biogrape pastes, as well as Macedon Grove Olives tapenades and chilli sauces by Sunset Ridge Organics.

Fine Food had the participation of many certified organic companies in a significant Natural Products section as well as various other areas of the fair.

Fit Kitchen, ready-to-eat meals and soups manufacturer, recently certified organic with ACO, was a finalist for two awards being for best new food service product and best stand. Company Director John Rogers was pleased with the results of the show. "We made contact with excellent buyers. Our organic certification has been a major factor in the interest received."

Although more intent on highlighting their overall company branding at this show, there were also some well-known larger brands such as Coffex Coffee, Capilano Honey and Heinz which hold certified organic ranges of products.

And to show the entrepreneurial style of many in organics, several wonderful and innovative new products were launched at the show. Hari Har received great feedback on their traditionally pre-brewed Chai Tea with its perfectly balanced organic ingredients, as well as their loose leaf blend. Owners Barbara and Christina demonstrated how the pre-brewed product could be instantly prepared in a cafe using an espresso machine. Equally tasty and bold were Cob’s Fine Food’s new popcorn flavour: cheese and exotic spice. Owner John Walys says “The positive feedback has confirmed that we are ready to launch these into the marketplace.”

For more information on the Fine Food Australia visit

BFA - Producing the Best Resources for Keeping Industry Informed

Your Organic Advantage
Editor: Holly Vyner

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


Ph: 07 3350 5706 (International +61 7 3350 5706)