Organics harmonization could be on horizon

01/11/2013 11:05:00 AM
Jim Offner

What will the organic business look like in 2023?

Organic certification organization Quality Assurance International recently issued eight predictions that portray an industry guided by firmer certification and food-safety requirements, broader international trade, stronger adherence to sustainability practices and scruitiny by a more knowledgeable public.

The predictions:

Stricter organic. Expect tougher, more detailed requirements on practices and “allowed substances” from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program and National Organic Standards Board.

Food safety fusion. Look for “more disciplined food safety practices that are audited and certified at even the smallest of farms and plants. Organic and food safety audits will be increasingly synchronized. The number of required audits for organic, gluten-free, kosher and food safety likely will lead to “bundling” of numerous audits in a single process.

Harmonic convergence. Organic certification standards that currently vary from nation to nation likely will evolve into harmonized with USDA organic standards in order to facilitate international trade. The U.S. also is predicted to align with Europe in non-GMO verification and labeling mandates.

Sustainably organic. Intensified scrutiny on “companies’ impact on biodiversity, water and soil conservation will translate to additional sustainability metrics in organic practices.”

Transparency Made Tangible. Expect a more transparent organic supply chain and common use of quick-response codes as a way to ensure consumer trust.

No more shopping gaps. QAI forecasts practical steps will be taken to be more inclusive and steps will be taken to include new or emerging industry sectors.

Consumers will be more organics-savvy, thanks to informational campaigns supplied by associations and retailers. University research will yield an increase in organic and sustainable agriculture tracks.”

Accessible organic. Larger organic production will lead to more organic foods available in large institutions, including food banks, schools, hospitals and convenience stores.

QAI notes the predictions are a “drastic shift” from the environment in which the organic industry operated in 1989.

The Organic Trade Association says it is thrilled with the projections.

“We are very happy to see all of the positive indicators for the future,” said Christine Bushway, executive director of the Brattleboro, Vt.-based OTA.

“The market for organic products continues to be consumer-powered and farmer-driven, and is poised to make critical  differences over the next decade for our agricultural landscape, the environment and our economy,” she said.

Roger Pepperl, marketing director with Wenatchee, Wash.-based fruit grower-shipper Stemilt Growers Inc., said harmonized standards are among the surest of the predictions to come true.

The prediction about organic literacy is a stretch, Pepperl said.

“The NOP standards, the OTA websites are ... not for the mainstream, and I don’t see any signage or education programs at retail that venture into consumer knowledge,” he said.

Earl Herrick, owner of Earl’s Organic, a San Francisco wholesaler, said he hopes use of the term “organic” in marketing strategies comes under stricter control.

“That is my hope. I am concerned with the power of agribusiness’s lobbying for questionable inputs,” he said.



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