Before 2009, a standard (guidelines and rules) did not exist for domestic and imported organic foods. This led to a misrepresentation of the word ‘organic’ in the Australian domestic food market. The use of the word ‘organic’ is not regulated in Australia, so it is important to make sure that products you buy come from certified growers and producers which guarantees they have been produced to national quality standards. Once a farmer joins a registered organic certification scheme, the designated farm can gain organic certification status after they have been operating according to organic principles for three years.
Two key national standards now govern the production, processing and labelling of organic food in Australia. These are:
- The National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce (for exported foods)
- The Australian Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Products (for domestic and imported foods).
These standards provide an agreed set of procedures to be followed in organic food production chain from farm to the consumer. This helps to ensure the integrity and traceability of an organic food product from ‘paddock to plate’. The standards include requirements for production, preparation, transportation, marketing and labelling of organic products in Australia.
While it is mandatory for exported organic produce to be certified and meet the National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce, the Australian standard (for domestic and imported foods) is not mandated, and certification is voluntary. Its purpose is to assist the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC – the national consumer regulatory authority) to ensure that claims made about organic and biodynamic products are not false or misleading.
‘Organic-certified produce’ means the food was grown, harvested, stored and transported without the use of synthetic chemicals, irradiation or fumigants and the integrity of this status is verified under the scrutiny of a registered certification body.
How to identify food certified as organic
Suggestions for making sure the food you are buying is organically grown include:
- If you are buying from an organic retailer, check for the Organic Retailers’ and Growers’ Association of Australia (ORGAA) notice, which should be prominently displayed
- Choose foods with the label ‘certified organic’ from one of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) accredited certifying organisations
- Check packaging for the grower’s name and certification number
Do not be fooled by packaging that claims the produce is ‘natural’ or ‘chemical free’ if the proper certification labelling is not displayed.
Nationally Accredited Certifying Organisations
"http://www.daff.gov.au/" DAFF (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) is the government body responsible accrediting an Organic Certification Body, issuing an accreditation number.
Seven organisations are classified by DAFF as organic certifiers:
- AUS-QUAL Limited (AUSQUAL)
- Australian Certified Organic (ACO)
- Bio-Dynamic Research Institute (BDRI). An ethical, non-profit company with a focus on bio-dynamic principles, demanding the highest quality application of the biodynamic method, supporting family farms and businesses, and encouraging community based, sustainable, ecological activities. The Research Institute states that it "has stood firm and committed to its charter under the current corporatization that is occurring within the organic industry".
- National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia Certified Organic (NASAA Certified Organic)
- Organic Food Chain (OFC) represents the vision of two substantial, commercially orientated organic pioneering farmers and their families who recognised the need for an organised and highly accountable system of Organic Accreditation and product differentiation. The OFC today is comprised of the families of these pioneers and continues to work to develop and maintain strict standards that meet consumers’ expectations of "Organic" and represents organic farmers in a wide range of industry forums and standards councils.
- Safe Food Production Queensland (SFQ)
- Tasmanian Organic-Dynamic Producers (TOP).
Some of the certifying organisations have their own standards in addition to the National Standard.
Biodynamic farming is a type of organic farming pioneered by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, which places strong emphasis on ecological harmony and environmental sustainability. Biodynamic food is grown with particular composts, preparations and natural activating substances.
Things to remember
Organic farming is the production of food without the use of synthetic chemicals or genetically modified components.
Organic foods are not necessarily completely chemical free, but the pesticide residues will be considerably lower than those found in produce manufactured with synthetic chemicals.
Choose foods labelled ‘certified organic’ by one of the seven DAFF-accredited certifying organisations.
Organic farming is better for the environment and more sustainable.