Going organic

Those involved in the production and sale of organic produce are the chief propo-nents of a push for greater regulation of their industry, as Julie-anne Sprague reports.

ORGANIC food is most definitely in vouge, but because there is no regulation on the word “organic” it’s a case of buyer beware, according to the Organic Farmers Association and the Organic Growers Association of WA.

While something you’ve bought may claim to be organic, that may not necessarily be the case.

Organic Growers Association of WA president Annie Dunn said there was no legislation in Australia for the use of the word organic.

“What has developed is a group of certified bodies, because growers got sick of people promoting their food as organic when it really wasn’t,” she said.

“Because there is no law regarding the use of the word ‘organic’ we encourage consumers to look for certification.”

There are six places throughout the country that offer certification to organic farmers. Each has a minimum standard requirement set out by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS).

Rod May, chairman of the Organic Farmers Association, said it was important to look for the certification when buying organic foods because some imports and domestic products may not meet the standard.

“Because of the World Trade Organisation’s rules you can’t put a restriction on imports if there is no domestic standard,” he said.

“That means food can be imported that does not meet our standard. It’s one of the issues on the top of our agenda and we’ve been pressing the government to hold a summit on this issue.”

Ms Dunn said the best way to ensure peace of mind was to ask the store owner.

“Ask the store owner who grew it, who certified it, and what the certified number is,” she said.

“You can contact the certifier and check out the farmer, and if the store owner is not willing to give the information, then don’t trust them.”

Ms Dunn said the industry needed a strong consumer watchdog to ensure only certified produce could be sold with the organic label.

Organic Growers Association of WA is a volunteer organisation and is currently lobbying the government for funding to provide better information services about organic farming.

Department of Agriculture development officer Steve McCoy said the organic market was growing at a substantial rate, with a few larger scale growers contributing to the rapid retail growth in the past five years. There are about 130 organic producers in WA.

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