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Founding organic certifier celebrates 25 years


New Zealand’s founding organic certifier celebrates 25 years at the fore

When an enthusiastic group of individuals put $100 each on the table 25 years ago they could not have known the extent to which their vision and philosophy would shape the organic industry New Zealand knows today (organic exports were valued in 2006 at NZ$120-130million).

This year BioGro, New Zealand’s leading organic certifier, is proud to be celebrating its 25th anniversary.

BioGro’s CEO Dr Michelle Glogau says “Turning 25 is a significant milestone not only for BioGro but the whole organics sector. The industry has evolved from a grassroots cottage industry into a sophisticated, consumer-focussed production and distribution industry and that’s worth celebrating”. Since it began, BioGro has been instrumental in steering organics in NZ.

In 1983, the Soil & Health Association, Bio-Dynamic Farming & Gardening Association of New Zealand, and the Henry Doubleday Research Association formed the New Zealand Biological Producers and Consumers Council (trading as BioGro). Its primary objective was to develop and maintain a credible and internationally respected organic standard and certification process, to safeguard the interests of producers and consumers. BioGro’s objective and founding philosophy are as fundamental to its success now as they were then.

“I would say that BioGro was borne out of the first energy crisis in 1974 - that’s what stimulated the revival of the organic movement around the world. We had a big scare back then…that was basically the catalyst I think for it all” recalls Bob Crowder, one of BioGro’s founders and life members.

“We were all working on these revolutionary ideas and organics was one of them. It was the time of the Indo-Chinese wars as well, Vietnam, and then the All Blacks and South Africa. It was a very radical time in the 70s and into the early 80s and the organic movement was part of it really”.

BioGro’s ambition saw it develop the highest organic standards of international repute to audit and certify the processes carried out by producers. These standards continue to evolve, reflecting best practise and pre-empting industry and consumer concerns domestically and internationally. BioGro is intrinsically connected to export markets.

Mr Crowder explains “We saw that New Zealand had tremendous potential for being the powerhouse of organic production in the world - way back then! That's what drove it. It was an international concept.”

There is strong international recognition of the philosophy underpinning BioGro’s trademark. This is what brings customers to pay a premium for BioGro certified products.

Being certified by BioGro gives a producer access to international markets, technical expertise and support, and the license to use BioGro’s certification mark on their products – it’s a consumer’s guarantee of authenticity.

Organic certification is currently voluntary in New Zealand but this may change if labelling regulations such as those in countries like the U.K are introduced here.

“Organic consumers are becoming increasingly demanding – they value authenticity and want to know that the highest organic standards have been met every step of the way. Buying organic products certified by BioGro provides that guarantee” explains Dr Glogau.

BioGro was one of the earliest organic organisations to be accredited by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). It continues to engage in the development of organics and is committed to attending significant events around the world, such as the 16th IFOAM Organic World Congress held in Italy last month.

Today BioGro is New Zealand’s largest organic certifier with 600 licensees and over 900 certified operations. It issues certificates to primary producers, food processors, wholesalers, distributors and retailers, exporters and importers, input manufacturers and service providers, and others involved in textiles, health and body care products.

A not for profit incorporated society, BioGro has 370 members and is directed by a board of councillors (currently chaired by Chris Morrison, founder of Phoenix Organics). Based in Wellington it has a staff of nine, and a team of five auditors.

Its 25th AGM for members will be held on Saturday 19 July in Wellington, followed by a 25th Anniversary Dinner which will be opened by Dr Jon Tanner, CEO of Organics Aotearoa New Zealand (OANZ) and attended by its three life members. Other events to mark this anniversary will take place around New Zealand throughout the year.


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