Milestone victory: Australian Government launches consultation on mandatory organic standard 

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The Australian Government has launched a major consultation on organic regulation in a move described as a “milestone victory” towards establishing a mandatory standard for use of the word ‘organic’ in the country. 

The wide-ranging review was announced last week by Australia’s minister for agriculture, David Littleproud, a long-term supporter of improving and streamlining Australia’s organic regulatory framework 

Australia is currently an anomaly among major economies in that only voluntary standards for organic apply domestically. Although a national organic standard has existed since the 1990s, it has never been enforced. 

The current situation means that products that are not certified may be labelled organic in Australia, therefore damaging the prospects for certified organic producers. Exporters of organic products meanwhile are severely disadvantaged due to the red tape of having to pay separate in-country fees and meet specific regulations of customer nations, in the absence of a trusted Australian framework.

Niki Ford, CEO Australian Organic, the country’s lead organic trade group, praised the Australian Government for its action and said it followed significant lobbying efforts on behalf of the organic industry over the past three years.

“We are grateful to minister Littleproud for his ongoing support and help to drive this agenda that will support better market access, consumer confidence and industry credibility,” Ms Ford said.

“As the peak industry body for the organic sector, we have worked tirelessly to support our members and provide a consistent voice to government on this crucial matter.

“We are so pleased this important consultative process has now formally begun.

“Australia is currently an anomaly among major economies in that only voluntary standards for organic apply domestically. Although a national organic standard has existed since the 1990s, it has never been enforced” 

“Over the next few weeks, and during the public consultation process, we will focus on supporting our industry members, producers, manufacturers, exporters and consumers to provide their views on this topic that is critical to customer confidence and the future growth of organics in Australia.”

Ford said establishing a mandatory standard would bring Australia in line with other countries when competing for the rising global demand for organic goods.

“Establishing a mandatory standard for organic will help ensure our burgeoning industry is well positioned to capture growing demand both here domestically and in export markets around the world,” she said.

The Australian Organic Market Report 2021, released in June, highlighted this issue stating almost one third, or 31 per cent, of shoppers who purchased an organic product in the past year believed they had previously been misled by organic claims on product packaging.