3 Feb 2009

Backdown over UK organic certification threat

8:46 am on 3 February 2009

An organisation representing New Zealand organic growers is relieved at a decision by UK's largest certifying agency to back down over plans to withhold certification for air-freighted organic produce.

The UK-based Soil Association released a discussion document in 2007 which raised the possibility of a full or partial ban on allowing its certification label to be used on organic products flown into Britain.

It now recognises, however, that air freight provides economic benefits for organic producers in developing nations, as they are able to sell the produce at a premium in the UK market.

The Soil Association said its board has decided to instead monitor the amount of air-freighted organic goods.

Organics Aotearoa New Zealand executive officer Gavin Middleton said his organisation pointed out in submissions to the Soil Association the need to take into account more than just the distance to market when providing certification.

He said research shows, for example, that New Zealand grass-fed lamb has a lower carbon footprint than grain-fed animals raised in barns in Europe.

Mr Middleton said if certification had been withheld it would have been difficult for New Zealand products to have been sold in the UK, and may have encouraged other European countries to restrict imports.