Pressure growing for organic label guide

By SHAN GOODWIN

ORGANIC food buyers may be getting ripped off because of the difficulty of determining genuine produce, organic farmers and the Australian Consumers' Association have warned.

Both groups want a tougher and uniform system for ensuring produce is genuine.

There is no labelling guide for the industry. Terms such as 'chemical free', 'pesticide free' and even 'grown organically' can be used freely.

Organic farmers say it is unfair that they put in the extra work and money it takes to be certified while others can ride on the higher prices paid for organic food. They also say consumers are at risk of being misled.

The ACA has found that packaged organic food costs up to 64 per cent more than a conventionally-grown item. However in the Northern Rivers, which has become the country's hub for organic produce, consumers are blessed with a huge choice of organics for much the same, if not lower, prices.

Mullumbimby organic vegetable grower Bronwyn Hancox said seven organisations can issue organic certification, but there were variants in the rules.

"Consumers need guarantees, and we need a fairer system of monitoring," she said.

"And the tougher the rules the better. At the Byron Farmers' Market we know the guy next to us is honest, and when he says he grows organically he does, but there are definitely people out there taking advantage."

In a bid to address the disparity, coordinators of the Byron Farmers Market ? in Butler Reserve on Thursday mornings ? have introduced a system whereby certified organic producers have a white flag on their stall.

Tregeagle potato grower Gavin Monti sells at the market. He classifies himself as an organic farmer, but is not certified.

"The red tape of certification was a financial struggle for me," he said.

"I don't use chemicals or fertilisers, and I want to let people know that.

"But I agree there needs to be a system. I intend to become certified."

For Niki Greignon, of Byron Bay, buying organics from farmers' markets is the best way to get around the chance of being misled.

"You can speak directly to the farmers and I trust them. In the supermarkets they don't tell you how it was grown in any case," she said.



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