Sunday, February 5, 2012


Organic foods market is on a steady climb and can be expected to become a significant player in a few years to come. The major reason for people patronizing this version of food is because of apprehensions about the risks posed by the main stream food industry which is being hauled up for a series of serious safety violations requiring massive recalls of many suspected consignments from the market. The organic food certification is a complex procedure involving frequent checking and monitoring and like any human endeavor certification agencies can be vulnerable to mismanagement and some times manipulation causing some serious concern. It is a tribute to China that it is trying to make the organic certification process as transparent as possible to infuse more confidence among consumers, especially the international buyers. If the policy orchestrated recently is implemented organic foods from China may become darling of the prospective buyers. Here is a take on this development in that country.

"A senior staff member from one of China's 23 official certification bodies, who spoke on condition of anonymity, disclosed that
a new national standard will be unveiled in March to ease the chaos. The standard will include four important changes from 
the original, in 2005. This staff member has been working in organic food certification for about eight years. He said the first two changes
will concern the transition period, akin to probation, when a farm applies for the certification of land. It lasts for 24 or 36 months, 
depending on the crops grown there, and farms must begin following organic practices three or four months before the transition period.
Under the current standard, as soon as farms enter the transition, they can obtain yellow certification, indicating their products are moving
toward organic.Green certification is granted only if the farm passes probation. "The problem with this stage is that, under the current
standard, a farm can get a transition period certificate, even if it only stopped applying chemicals on the crops three or four months
earlier,"the senior staff member said. Under revised procedures, no certificates will be issued in the first 12 months of transition.
"That is to say, the farm will have to stop using chemicals for at least 15 months before it can receive a yellow certificate," he said.
Also, farmers will not be allowed to label their products "organic transition food", which has been used to denote food that was better
than ordinary but not as good as organic.The staff member also said the new regulations will set the acceptable level of pesticide residue
at zero.The current standard allows "one-20th of that found in ordinary food".

China can do well with some image make over after a series of food adulteration episodes that has shaken the confidence on its reliability and safety and this has caused some erosion of its food export business. China has a better chance of enforcing harsh control regimes to safeguard the image of its industry and there is no reason this new initiative will not succeed though corruption and corruptible enforcement officials can still derail the program. Probably other countries may have a lesson to learn from China in initiating such new novel features in the regulatory regime.


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