Can we trust the label ‘organic’?

More than ever, consumers need to know they can trust food labels, but the word ‘organic’ is being misused by some producers. The Soil & Health Association is therefore disappointed that the Ministry for Primary Industries has abandoned discussions about the regulation of the word organic until 2017.

“People want clean, safe food, and are increasingly turning to organics,” says Marion Thomson, co-chair of Soil & Health. “Many farmers and producers are responding to demand and producing high quality, certified organic products. But there are a few producers claiming their products are organic when in fact they aren’t.”

Some producers may be unintentionally misleading consumers; others may be deliberately using the word organic as part of their marketing strategy to sell more product and/or at a higher price.

Consumers can trust food or other products (e.g. skincare) that are labelled as certified organic, because they are subject to rigorous third-party audits to ensure their safety and integrity. Organic systems use no synthetic fertilisers or pesticides, and are GE-free. Certified organic farms have healthier soils, are better for waterways, have a lower carbon footprint and increased biodiversity compared with non-organic farms.

“We would love to see some leadership from the Ministry for Primary Industries in regulating the word organic, so consumers can have some certainty,” says Marion Thomson. “Other countries have done this, so there are examples to follow.”

Soil & Health wants New Zealand to live up to its clean, green image, and become a completely organic nation, to benefit our health, the environment and the economy.

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