Organic Federation for Australia

chair's report

This edition features more information that the organic industry is growing worldwide at a rapid rate, despite economic downturns and declines in farming around the world.

There is an increase in weight of scientific evidence linking minute residues of pesticides to disruptions in our endocrine (hormone) systems and a range of diseases. This month we feature two new studies.

Also studies continue to show a cocktail of residues in our food. Many of these residues are known endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and are linked to serious diseases. The permitted residue limits are based on outdated studies. They do not test for the EDC effects on the unborn and this is becoming an increasing concern to scientists doing research in this area.

Best Regards
Andre Leu

Australian Organic News

National Organic Week
National Organic Week is a joint initiative of the OFA and the Centre for Organic Resource Enterprises to give widespread promotion to organic products and systems. The week will encourage a numerous organic events from Oct 11 to Oct 18 this year all around Australia and celebrate the 10th anniversary of the OFA.

At least 3 State and Territory Primary Industry Ministers will be hosting the Media Launches for NOW and around 30 events are planned for the week.

We encourage all stakeholders – consumers, producers, retailers, input suppliers, wholesalers, certifiers, restaurateurs, researchers and the whole sector to participate in the Week and its goals.

Please visit the website: www.organicweek.net.au to see the growing list of events

The key promotional aims of NOW are to:
• Increase overall market demand for organic goods
• Disseminate and promote to the Australian public information designed to increase their knowledge of the many benefits to human and environmental health of organic produce and systems, with a focus on pesticides and climate change mitigation in particular
• Disseminate and promote to the Australian agricultural community agronomic and scientific information designed to promote conversion to organic methods and systems
• Promote the integrity of organic certification and the Australian Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Products
• Provide stakeholders with an event platform to stage educational forums, farm tours, media coverage and retail and other promotions showcasing the products, methods, services and recent science of the organic sector.
• Promote the welfare of animals, the earth and people
You can upload events onto the website so that they can be promoted to the media and the public. These Events can take any form: i.e. farm tour, open day, in-store promotion, forum, etc.

The media will be driven to the website where they will be able to search the Events Calendar by location for events pertinent to their audience and locale.

This will facilitate independent print, radio and TV news coverage of the various events occurring and will also encourage and enable members of the media to make direct contact with the Organisers of those events (i.e. you) for further interviews etc…

At the Events Calendar page you will also find links to both a web-ready and a print-ready National Organic Week logo. Please download thee and use freely to promote your NOW Event.

Enquiries: Danielle Farrow, Communication & Sponsorship Director
NOW: National Organic Week (11-19 October 2008)
Mob: 0433 395 255
Tel: 61 2 9999 2834
Email: danielle@organicweek.net.au

Australian Standard
The draft Australian Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Products has been released and is available for public comment. Standards Australia released the draft Australian Standard for public comment on 21st July. Members of the public and interested parties are encouraged to review the documents and provide feedback to Standards Australia by 22 September 2008.

Standards Australia is working towards publishing the Australian Standard by December 2008.

The Committee has also developed supporting reference material outlining the certification procedures for growers of organic and biodynamic products.
To read the draft Standard, visit the Standards Australia website at www.standards.org.au and click on Drafts for Public Comment in the left hand menu.

OFA Standards Committee Taking Comments
Anyone is welcome to respond directly to Standards Australia with comments on the draft. The OFA will also coordinate community responses and has established a Standards Committee with the responsibility to collate comments. Comments may be sent to any OFA director, or to Tim Marshall as Chairperson of the OFA Standards Subcommittee, by email at tim@tmorganics.com, by fax at 08 83391251, or by mail at PO Box 207 Stirling SA 5152

Australian Organic Industry Worth Around 600 Million Dollars
The Australian Organic Market Report 2008 shows that the industry is worth almost $600 million with around 30% growth per annum for some sectors since the OFA initiated report in 2004. 2007 farm gate values were estimated to be in excess of $231 m Australian dollars – an 80 % increase on 2004. Major retailers now carry in excess of 500 different organic lines in fresh and grocery categories.

OFA members Dr Paul Kristiansen from the University of New England and Alasdair Smithson of Organic Knowledge conducted the research for Biological Farmers of Australia.

The number of certified organic operators has increased by an annual 5 % average net over the last 5 years. This is in contrast to ABARE figures on all farms in Australia that show a decline in the numbers.

Over 40 % of consumers now buy organic food, which should be compared to research data showing that 86% of consumers oppose GMOs.

Australia still has largest amount of certified organic farmland in the world, 11,988,044 hectares, the majority of which is used for sustainable rangelands grazing.

NASAA certifies around half of this making it the biggest certifier in the world for land area.

The report is available at: www.bfa.com.au

The OFA AGM will be held in Sydney on October 18 starting at 15.00 and finishing at 17.00
Medina on Crown, 359 Crown St Surry Hills NSW 2010 Australia 02 8302 1000

Everybody is welcome
For bookings please contact Cathrine De Danann, OFA Secretariat,
Telephone 1300 657 435
Email: dedanann@aapt.net.au

OFA Awards Dinner
This dinner will be part of the 10 anniversary celebrations of OFA. Awards will present to people who have given a lifetime to the OFA.

The OFA Awards Dinner will be at KAWA organic restaurant October 18 starting at 19.00
348a Crown St, Surry Hills 2010, NSW
Everybody is welcome
For bookings please contact Cathrine De Danann, OFA Secretariat, Telephone 1300 657 435 Email: dedanann@aapt.net.au

Nominations for the OFA Lifetime Achievement Awards
The OFA is seeking nominations for the OFA Lifetime Achievement Awards. These awards are to recognise the people who have given a lifetime of service to the organic sector. Please send you nominations with the reason why they deserve an award to: Cathrine De Danann, OFA Secretariat, Email: dedanann@aapt.net.au

world organic news

Organic Sales Still Growing in Europe
According to information from the German Market Report Centre ZMP in Bonn, the sale of organic food at retail trade level not only increased strongly in Germany, but also often achieved two-figure growth rates in other European countries in 2007.

Germany with sales of 5.45 billion euros and an organic share of 3 % of the total food market was the largest and for many importers the most important sales region in Europe. Only the Scandinavian countries Sweden and Denmark beat the German growth rate with 22 and 26 % respectively. www.zmp.de Source: BIOFACH

USA: Organic Growth Despite Difficult Economic Situation
Total sales of UPC-coded organic foods and non-alcoholic beverages surged by 25.0% to $4.38 billion in U.S. food, drug and mass merchandiser stores (excluding Wal-Mart) in the 52 weeks ended April 19, 2008, reports O Research Week.

In dry grocery, the rate of dollar sales growth in organics was 10x greater than non-organics, by a 28.8% to 2.8% comparison; that lifted sales in this segment to $1.75 billion and a 1.2% share of department volume. In dairy, the rate of dollar sales growth in organics was nearly 2x as high as non-organics, by a 19.7% to 11.0% comparison; with that, segment sales rose to $1.40 billion and a 3.4% share of department volume.

In fresh produce, the rate of dollar sales growth in organics more than tripled that of non-organics, by a 26.6% to 6.9% comparison; segment sales rose to $817.0 million and a 6.1% share of department volume. Source: BIOFACH

EU Commission Starts Organic Campaign
A website under the motto of "Organic farming. Good for nature, good for you" was recently activated in 22 languages. The clearly arranged and informative Internet site provides argumentation material for the general public and the organic sector. The "Toolbox" section offers radio and TV spots and various information packages for downloading by farmers, processors, retailers and the catering trade.

The initiative is part of the European Action Plan for Organic Food and Farming. A competition for designing a new EU organic logo will be organized at the end of this year, with admission open to art and design students. www.organic-farming.europa.eu Source: BIOFACH

France: Biocoop Cooperates with FNAB
Biocoop, the biggest network of organic food stores in France, signed a cooperation agreement with the organic federation, Fédération nationale d’Agriculture Biologique des régions de France, FNAB, at the end of June 2008.

The aim is to increase cooperation between both organizations in production and distribution and in the search for new means of developing the organic sector. The agreement also envisages strengthening regional marketing to counter globalization and the increasingly larger ecological risks.

The Biocoop network with over 300 organic food stores has opened a new store every week since January of this year and manages 14 % of the French organic market. 15,000 ha of converted land would be necessary just to cater for the growth of the Biocoop stores. Source: BIOFACH

pesticide news

Pesticide Exposure in the Uterus Leads to Prostate Disease
Australian and American researchers have established a link between endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and prostate diseases.

Previous scientific studies have shown that androgens (male hormones) are critical for prostate development, with the fetal prostate sensitive to altered hormone levels and endocrine disrupting chemicals that exhibit estrogenic or antiandrogenic properties. Prostatic inflammation affects 9% of men of all ages.

The scientists have found that fetal rats exposed to minute doses of the fungicide vinclozolin, an antiandrogenic EDC, developed prostate disease after puberty. The doses were too small to cause changes to the prostate at the time of exposure. The researchers stated ‘Prostate histology remained normal until puberty, but 100% of animals displayed prostatitis postpubertally.’

They concluded ‘These data are the first to unequivocally implicate EDCs as a causative factor and fill an important knowledge gap on the etiology of prostatitis.’

Vinclozolin is found on imported Kiwi fruits. There are a wide range of pesticides that are known EDCs found as residues on and in Australian food. Source: Environmental Health Perspectives

Agricultural Chemicals Damage Reproduction in Amphibians
Researchers from the University of Florida have established that exposure to agricultural chemicals causes reproductive abnormalities in Amphibians. Scientists are increasingly concerned with the huge body of data showing that many agricultural chemicals disrupt the reproductive systems in animals by acting like hormones. The weight of published scientific evidence shows that these endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are associated with cancers of the sexual tissues (breast, prostate, testes, cervix, vagina and ovaries) reduced sperm counts and deformities in the urinary-genital tracts.

The researchers found that the number of abnormalities and frequency of intersex gonads in toads increases with agriculture in a dose-dependent fashion. These gonadal abnormalities are associated with altered gonadal function in the males. Testosterone concentrations were altered and secondary sexual traits were either feminized or demasculinized to create intersex toads. (Intersex is where an individual has both male and female sexual characteristics.)

The researchers stated ‘… males from agricultural areas had hormone concentrations and secondary sexual traits that were intermediate between intersex toads and non-agricultural male toads. Skin coloration at the most agricultural site was not sexually dimorphic; males had female coloration.

They concluded ‘These reproductive abnormalities could certainly contribute to amphibian population declines occurring in areas exposed to agricultural contaminants.’ Source: Environmental Health Perspectives

90 % of UK Strawberries Contain Pesticides
The latest report from the UK Government’s Pesticides Safety Directorate shows over 90% of strawberries tested contained pesticides. In contrast, no samples of organic strawberries tested contained pesticides.

Emma Hockridge, Soil Association policy campaigner, said that there was compelling evidence emerging that the combined effect of pesticides, the cocktail effect, even at minuscule levels, was more significant than previously realised - especially as several of the pesticides found had been proven to have serious health implications. Source: Soil Association www.soilassociation.org

EU Strawberries Contain Multiple Pesticides
A survey carried out by PAN Europe last year found that the non-organic strawberries contained a staggering 14 different pesticides, of which five are known carcinogens. According to a survey by the European Commission, 40% of fruit and vegetables sold in Europe contain pesticides, while one item in 30 contains pesticides at levels above EU legal limits. According to Government statistics, UK farmers use 31,000 tonnes of pesticides each year to produce food, this means half a kilo for every UK citizen.

A study published by Choice shows that Australian Strawberries also contain residues of multiple pesticides. Source: Soil Association www.soilassociation.org

Pesticide Residues in Tomatoes
Independent residue testing commissioned by Pesticide Action Network Aotearoa NZ and the Soil & Health Association has found endosulfan residues in both New Zealand and Australian tomatoes.

Endosulfan residues were found in cherry tomatoes, but not loose tomatoes, from both countries, with the Australian fruit having four and a half times more endosulfan than the NZ cherry tomatoes.

Whilst the Australian large loose tomatoes did not contain endosulfan, they did contain residues of dimethoate, and its metabolite omethoate. Dimethoate is a highly toxic organophosphate insecticide used as a post harvest dip to kill fruit fly larvae before tomatoes are sent to New Zealand. Omethoate is far more toxic and persistent than dimethoate.

“Dimethoate and omethoate don’t wash off the tomatoes and are not something consumers should be ingesting,” said Dr Meriel Watts of Pesticide Action Network. “They are endocrine disruptors, reducing testosterone levels and causing infertility and can also cause birth defects, a variety of cancers including leukaemia, and suppression of the immune system.”

Endosulfan has been banned in 55 countries and proposed by the European Union for a global ban under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic pollutants.

“Endosulfan is the worst pesticide still in use in New Zealand”, said Dr Watts. “It is also an endocrine disruptor, specifically mimicking oestrogen, causing breast cancer cells to grow and is a real risk for breast cancer at even very low exposure levels such as residues in food. It persists in our bodies and is handed down to the next generation across the placenta and in breast milk, a situation that is regarded as no longer acceptable in countries such as those of the European Union”.

“While having greater levels of endosulfan, the Australian cherry tomatoes tested also contained methamidophos and piperonyl-butoxide.” Source: The Soil & Health Association of NZ

UK Tries to Overturn EU Pesticide Bans
The British government has started a media blitz designed to undercut the European Union's new proposal to remove the "most hazardous" pesticides from food grown in the EU. Against all logic, the UK Pesticides Safety Directorate's principal toxicologist rushed to assure journalists that removing the most carcinogenic, mutagenic and reprotoxic pesticides would achieve "no significant health benefit for consumers."

PAN Europe spokesperson Elliott Cannell called the UK government's initiative "extremely disappointing. Cancer is the second biggest cause of death in Europe so it makes real sense to ensure that carcinogenic and mutagenic pesticides are no longer common contaminants in fruits and vegetables." With France, Germany, Spain and Italy supporting the new law, Cannell says, "it's an insult to common sense that the UK should try to hold back progress across the EU." Source PANNA

GMO news

GMOs & Organics "can't coexist" in Spain
The Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics reports the Organic-GMO coexistence has "generated new problems instead of solving existing conflicts." The report's author, Rosa Binimelis, studied Spain's Catalonia and Aragon regions, where Bt corn was introduced in 1998. Binimelis found that the "difficulties organic farmers would face in order to claim compensations" for contaminated crops had discouraged organic investments. After GMO corn was introduced in Aragon, the area devoted to organic maize fell by 75% between 2004-2007.

The study predicts contamination fears will promote the spread of "genetically modified farming over any other alternative." The European Commission is planning to evaluate the coexistence policy. Source PANNA

Organic Update is a publication of the Organic Federation of Australia
Phone +61 1300 657 435
PO Box 369 Bellingen NSW 2454 Australia
Join the OFA
Subscribe to the Organic Update