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New Zealand: Proposed organic farming legislation deemed insufficient

While the European Union has just announced an ambitious programme of funding for organic agriculture, organic producers in New Zealand are decrying proposed legislation as being "from the dark ages".

The Organic Products Bill proposed one standard for organic certification which would be controlled by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). There were two current industry certifiers, Biogro and Assure Quality.

Organics Aotearoa New Zealand (OANZ) chairman Chris Morrison said the proposed legislation would do little to foster the domestic organic market, and its costs were likely to drive smaller growers out.

The Organic Products Bill proposed, in effect, to double the bureaucracy and costs for organic producers, Biogro NZ chief executive Donald Nordeng said.

MPI would duplicate existing certification schemes, and withhold the right to issue organic certificates – a move Nordeng said would ‘waste everyone's time and money’. "It’s more onerous, cumbersome and expensive," he said.

He said the European Union, in contrast, had signalled how seriously it was taking organics. If farmers put their hands up to convert to organic, they would be fully funded for five years.

Chris Morrison, chair of Organics Aotearoa New Zealand says a definition of “organic” and statement of organic principles in the Organic Products Bill is essential. Biogro was accredited to the EU to certify organic producers in Fiji, Vanuatu and Malaysia. If the EU allowed Biogro to extend its certification to New Zealand it could certify directly, and save producers over $450,000 every year, he said.

The most recent draft of the bill blind-sided organic farmers because it wasn't what the sector wanted or has been asking for, organic farmers said.

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