Switching to organics requires committment

Organic farming practices began on a commercial scale in the 1980s, and are now an increasing segment of the market.  It is reported that more New Zealanders are now buying organic products than ever before with more farmers now committing to organic production of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Organic farming is a method of production that involves much more than choosing not to use pesticides or fertilisers and other similar products. The principal goal of organic production is to develop enterprises that are sustainable and harmonious with the environment and could be described as a holistic system.

However, there is no specific legislation regulating organic certification in New Zealand.  Aside from the Fair Trading Act, which prohibits misleading and deceptive behaviour, organic certification is regulated by industry standards only.  Is this level of regulation sufficient?

We choose to buy organic foods for different reasons. Most people want to buy food that is free of chemical pesticides and conventional fertilisers with the view that in the future organic farming will be better for the environment.  While there is an increasing need to protect consumers from deception and fraud in the market place, and against unsubstantiated plans, a balance needs to be achieved.

The main reasons farmers give for wanting to farm organically are their concerns for the environment and about working with agricultural chemicals in conventional farming systems. There are also issues with the amount of energy used in the manufacturing processes of most farm chemicals. Organic farmers find their method of farming to be profitable and personally rewarding.

The issues currently facing farmers who are choosing to go down the organic farming path is the transition period, and the costs associated with conversion. The first few years are the hardest as there are specific rules and processes in place to get to the point of obtaining an organic certification.

The restrictions mean that products may not be able to be presented as fully organic for wholesale purposes. Farmers often have to weather the transition period before they can receive the benefit of producing and selling organic products at wholesale or retail suppliers. You will often see organic produce stalls at farmers markets where they are not governed by the same standard food restrictions as retail suppliers.

The future of organic farming relies upon those willing to make a change to current methods and practices and the challenges that may come with the change. There are many foreseeable benefits to the environment and creating renewable resources that are sustainable within agricultural systems.  These benefits should be encouraged, and over regulation could risk pushing producers away from going organic.

The content of this document is necessarily general and readers should seek specific advice on particular matters and not rely solely on this document. 

If you would like more information on any of the topics in this document, please contact your usual Auld Brewer Mazengarb & McEwen adviser. 

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