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Natural justice for organic identity

The Organics Products and Production Bill – which is set to introduce a national standard for products marketed as ‘organic’ – has passed through its third and final reading in Parliament

Currently, there is no existing standard for such products that businesses can cite, although there is a regulatory auditing process for those listed as ‘certified organic’.

Masterton-based certified organic grower Jeremy Howden is pleased with the progress of the bill.

“Our business is quality assured and we welcome it. We want the customers to be satisfied they’re doing the right thing,” he said.

Howden has been growing produce in Wairarapa for 30 years and has been officially certified as organic since 1995.

“I’ve got standards to operate to, but anyone can use the term ‘organic’. Some people wouldn’t know when they’ve been sold a dummy,” Howden noted.

“This is about New Zealand’s brand. It’s about our health standards and protecting the natural environment.”

Howden said he didn’t expect the new, yet-to-be-confirmed regulations to differ much from the certification standards he is already operating under.

Produce, wine, dairy, beef, and anything else that’s marketed as organic is impacted by the bill and will need to comply with the standard to keep the label.

Palliser Wines viticulturist Guy McMaster is also in favour of the bill and said it will make exporting simpler as organic products will only need to comply with the national standard.

“With no national standard currently, when exporting we need to make sure we’re meeting all other countries’ independent standards,” he said.

“It will make it a lot easier for us as an exporter to only have to comply with our own government standard.”

McMaster said this direction is a step forward for all organic growers and buyers.

“It’s exciting times for organic growers – having a national standard will only help and encourage more people to grow this way.

“It will also give people the confidence to buy organic and know what they’re getting.”

Wairarapa Green candidate Celia Wade-Brown said until now the organics market in New Zealand has operated largely on trust, and agreed that this bill will introduce clearer certainty for customers.

“People will be able to rely on the certification, and there won’t be any products undermining organics by not really being up to standard.”

Wade-Brown also said it is a positive move for producers who want to do the right thing.

“It’s really good news for Wairarapa organics producers, which we have quite a lot of.”

Although adamant the bill is a positive move, Wade-Brown said she expects there will be a period of transition as the legislation comes into effect.

“For those doing the right thing but not recording it formally, there will be a period of transition.

“It’s the nature of regulation and making sure all the honest businesses aren’t undermined by any cowboys.”

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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