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Is Organic Label Being Misused?

5 November 2004

The Soil and Health Association is disturbed that a New Zealand Food Safety Authority study released yesterday suggests some food retailers are misusing the "organic" label to claim organic status for foods that have been produced using chemical pesticides.

The NZFSA report suggested pesticide residues had been found in 22 % of the "organic" sample (compared to 42% in the conventional sample) in the survey . However, NZFSA acknowledges it probably included non-organic produce in the organic testing.

NZFSA admits the small study did not differentiate between food certified organic, produce claimed to be organic by the grower, produce claimed to be sprayfree, or conventional produce from organic outlets, said Steffan Browning, co-Chair of Soil & Health.

The very limited size and such critical flaws in the survey design render the results invalid on several counts but Soil & Health applaudes NZFSA following up apparent cheating uncovered in the marketplace by some growers or retailers.

There is no tolerance of cheats in certified organics said Mr Browning, who is very confident that a statistically robust study of certified organics would reveal the low to zero residues organic consumers know to expect. BioGro, New Zealand's main organic certifier has over 250 residue tests carried out each year on certified organic fruit and no residues have been found in the last 5 years.

The Soil and Health Association supports the certification of organic produce, as that gives consumers assurance of the integrity of organic food. Mr Browning says if a certified organic grower is found intentially using prohibited inputs, that grower can be banned forever.


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