The European Organic Congress by IFOAM, with the title “Organic’s contribution to the European Green Deal”, aims this year to inspire the participants by focusing on how the agri-food sector’s initiatives enhance the transition towards a more sustainable food system, through the aid of leading examples from representatives and experts amidst the organic sector. The New EU Organic Regulation 848/2018 will also be explored, while focusing on its implications for the objective of 25% EU organic land by 2030. We will dive deep into how organic districts, living labs and farm demonstrations contribute to rural development and the success of the Organic Action Plan. Moreover, organic’s contribution to climate change mitigation, with the EU Green Deal, the Biodiversity and Farm to Fork strategies and last but not least, the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) will be key themes for the Congress’ debates.
The deputy administrator of the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s National Organic Program (NOP), Dr Jenny Tucker, is to use her address to the sixth annual Organic & Non-GMO Forum this week to focus on strengthening organic rule enforcement and building relationships with various USDA agencies to protect the integrity of the organic brand, reports Organic Produce Network.
“The publishing of the Strengthening Organic Enforcement Proposed Rule was a significant milestone and represented input from a full range of organic community members, including organic farmers and businesses, advocacy groups, and the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB),” Tucker said. “The final rule will foundationally change the game to protect organic businesses that are playing by the rules. Increased funding means we now have more staff and in-house expertise needed to investigate complaints and actively expand surveillance of higher risk activities.”
“We are also proud of the relationships we have built with the USDA Customs and Border Protection, USDA Office of the Inspector General, and other USDA agencies to expand our enforcement reach. Many hands are acting to protect the organic market!”
“Once finalized, the Strengthening Organic Enforcement rule will increase the program’s authority to oversee and enforce the organic standards. The revised regulations are expected to reduce the number of uncertified businesses in the organic supply chain; standardize organic certificates; require the use of import certificates for imported organic products; increase the minimum number of unannounced inspections; increase inspector qualifications; strengthen fraud prevention procedures; and increase data reporting requirements,” she said.
“The final rule will foundationally change the game to protect organic businesses that are playing by the rules. Increased funding means we now have more staff and in-house expertise needed to investigate complaints and actively expand surveillance of higher risk activities.”
Dr Tucker believes the biggest challenge the industry faces is balancing the need for consistency in enforcement with the reality of diverse site-specific conditions around the globe.
“Soil-based farms and greenhouse operations in New England are going to be different from those in California. They are in different environments with different conditions and pressures. They can both be good for the environment, and they are both governed by the same rules under the Organic Foods Production Act,” she said. “Ensuring fair, consistent enforcement across diverse organic control systems will remain the largest challenge for the industry.”
She will also address the results from the National Agricultural Statistics Service’s (NASS) 2019 Organic Survey that was released last week and highlighted the continued growth of the organic market.
“As the number of organic farms and businesses grows, we continue to launch new tools and approaches to oversee and surveil the market – we will continue to go where organic grows. While the organic sector is still a small part of American agriculture, more farmers and consumers choosing the organic option year after year is a strong indicator that people value the choice. All of us in the organic community will continue to protect that choice!”
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In a bid to help organic farmers while promoting healthy eating, an organisation has been set up for the purchasing of organic produce from farmers at their farms, to be sold to residents of Vellore and Ranipet districts in e-vehicles. According to a report by The Hindu, Arun Kishore and Karthikeyan partnered up with the Certified Organic Farmers Association to provide free training to farmers and convert them to organic methods of agriculture from conventional farming methods. The new organisation, called EPPO, procures products from farmers at their respective farms and delivers them to people’s doorsteps using two e-vehicles. “Each vehicle has 22 racks with packed organic vegetables. The vehicles go through the streets of Vellore and Ranipet playing audio announcements about the benefits of such produce,” said Arun Kishore.
“The organic farmers, on the other hand, are unaware about marketing strategies. Hence we directly procure vegetables from the farmers at a price that brings them profit, grade them and sell the good quality produce to the residents,” said G.S. Purushoththaman, director of the Organic Farming Organisation and president of the Certified Organic Farmers Association. He added that across Tamil Nadu, there are one lakh organic farmers and around 10,000 in Vellore, Tiruvannamalai, Tirupathur and Ranipet. “The government of India has authorized the Organic farming Organisation Vellore as the Regional Council for Participatory Guarantee System to certify the organic products produced by the farmers since 2011,” he said.
Arun Kishore said that farmers do not have time to come to the towns and sell their products. “We sell them to the public and the amount is used to pay our staff and maintain the e-vehicles. We are trying to introduce this system in Chennai too.”
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Organic production in Spain totalled 2.355 million hectares in 2019, up 4.8% compared to 2018, according to data published by the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Organic farming now accounts for 9.3% of Spanish agricultural area. The data confirms the trend of sustained growth and the consolidation of Spanish organic production, with an average annual increase in total organic area of 7.5% in the last five years. Spain remains the leading producer in the European Union by surface area and fourth in the world. “It is a magnificent fact that reflects the ecological commitment of our farmers and ranchers,” said Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Luis Planas.
Spain appears to be on the track to meet the objectives set in line with the ‘From farm to table’ and ‘Biodiversity’ strategies established by the European Commission. According to the data, half of the almost 2.4 million hectares is used for permanent pasture (+ 5.6%), a quarter for arable land crops (+1.5%) and the other quarter for crops permanent (+ 6%). The total number of operators has increased 6.4% to 47,108, with growth in all categories: primary producers (+5.9%), industrial establishments (+13%) and marketers (+24.8 %), among which retailers stand out with an increase of 37%. In Andalusia, the total number of operators reached 16,450 in 2019, of which 15,097 are producers.
In fruit and vegetable production, there has been an increase in organic area dedicated to tubers (+13%), legumes (+4.2%); fruit trees (+9%), banana trees (+25%), citrus (+19%) and berries (+10%). The area of vineyards (+7%) and olive groves (+ 4.6%) also increased.
The total number of official controls carried out in 2019 was 54,195 in the domestic market (+5.5% compared to 2018) and 3,114 in imports at the border (30% more than last year). In addition, the competent authorities of the autonomous communities have carried out 1,927 audits / supervisions to the public and private certifying entities.
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Sales of organic blueberries in the US have rocketed over the past 10 years, with volumes increasing six-fold, from around 6 million kilos per year in 2010 to over 40 million kilos in 2019. Over the same period, prices have remained relatively stable, which means the market has become an extremely lucrative one. Average prices of organic blueberries tend to be around 50% higher than for conventional blueberries. However, premiums vary between different origins and at different times. According to USDA data, organic blueberries from Argentina and Uruguay cost up to 200% more than conventional berries in 2017, but the premium has diminished somewhat in the past two years. Indeed, the premiums paid for organic blueberries have been falling in most origins in recent times as supplies of organic fruit increase. This means the global blueberry market is becoming an ever-more competitive place with tighter margins. It will be interesting to see how the market is affected by the current Covid-19 pandemic: will consumer demand increase as health concerns play a greater role in driving demand, or will the economic fallout lead to a shift away from premium fruit?
More and more people concerned about the environment avoid plastics in their purchases. However, this is not so easy when it comes to purchasing coffee, chocolate, cocoa powder or cookies. Their oleic characteristics make it essential that their containers, even when mostly cardboard or paper, have plastic part or even aluminium foil to act as a barrier and protect the product. To offer an alternative, Hinojosa has formed a partnership with French start-up Lactips and together they have developed an innovative, fully recyclable packaging that combines cardboard and a bioplastic made from a natural protein.
The bioplastic, developed and patented by Lactips, is made from a natural polymer, making it 100% organic, compostable and biodegradable in fresh water. In addition, it has the properties of technical plastics. Unlike other bioplastics, it provides a high oxygen barrier so food is preserved better and longer, and food waste is reduced. Another outstanding feature is that this material is heat-sealable, that is, it is incorporated in a laminate into Hinojosa’s recycled cardboard boxes by heat, thus avoiding the use of glues. In addition, it is an effective fat barrier, printable and soluble.
Thus, the collaboration of the two companies has allowed them to generate a new range of 100% plastic-free packaging, but with all the advantages of plastics. The collaboration is part of Hinojosa’s commitment to research for the development of 100% sustainable solutions that provide present and future responses to the needs of the food industry.
This new system, which has already been successfully tested, is also compostable after use, even with food scraps and can be thrown into organic matter containers. Likewise, it is accredited with labels such as Ecocert, EU Ecolabel, and the OK Compost HOME and Ok Biodegradable Water certifications, both from the TÜV Austria auditor.
Smurfit Kappa has advanced one step further along its sustainability path with the signing of a commitment to link its CO2 target with the Science Based Target initiative (SBT) goals based on scientific knowledge. The move that comes after the leader in corrugated paper and packaging revealed in its 2019 Sustainable Development Report that it had cut its CO2 emissions by nearly a third since 2005.
SBT is the fruit of a collaboration between the United Nations Global Compact, WWF, CPD and World Resources Institute (WRI) and sets goals based on scientific knowledge as an effective way to boost the competitive advantage of companies transitioning to a low carbon economy. The initiative focuses on validating CO2 reduction targets in line with those of the Paris Agreement, signed in 2015, which aims to limit global warming to below two degrees Celsius by mid-century.
Tony Smurfit, CEO of the Group, said, “We have a long-term commitment to improving the planet and being part of the solution to the problem of climate change. SBT validation will also make our ambition to be the most sustainable company in the paper-based packaging industry even greater.”
Steven Stoffer, Vice President of Development at Smurfit Kappa, said, “We have spent more than a decade dedicated to lowering CO2 emissions; so signing a letter of commitment with the SBT is the logical next step and further proof of the Smurfit Kappa’s role in minimising the risks of climate change. Although we have made considerable progress in our goal of limiting the impact of climate change, we aspire to further reduce our CO2 emissions, targeting a 40% reduction by 2030, taking 2005 as a benchmark. ”
Smurfit Kappa also supports the recommendations of the Climate Financial Disclosure Task Force, a global body that makes disclosures about financial risks related to climate change and that are used to inform investors, lenders and insurers.
AIMPLAS, the Spanish plastics technology centre, and OLIPE, a cooperative of olive oil producers, have implemented the GO-OLIVA project to find a high value-added application for this waste by producing a new packaging material for oil packaging items. The result is Oliplast, a plastic compound material made with materials from renewable sources, namely, a filler or reinforcement from olive oil and a thermoplastic material. AIMPLAS also says that the new product is biodegradable and compostable. Oliplast can be processed by extrusion and injection moulding to manufacture new products such as trays and plates to hold bottles, as well as caps for packaging containers for cosmetic creams made with olive oil.
Work done to date has involved selecting raw materials and developing an olive stone that can be used to obtain the new material. The next step will be to perform a behavioural study so the material can be validated for transformation processes. Finally, an environmental study will be carried out to determine the material’s compostability.
Researchers have found that soil fungi have the potential to replace fertilisers. Work carried out at the University of Leeds has shown for the first time that fungi, which form associations with plant roots, provide significant amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen to crops. As the report states, “Fungi provide nutrients, even under the highest levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) predicted for 2100; which has important implications for future food security.” The finding, first reported in Global Change Biology, could potentially help reduce our reliance on fertilisers and contribute to tackling the climate crisis.
Co-author, Tom Thirkell, said, “We are beginning to realise that some of the crops we have tamed lack important connections with fungi in the soil. Our results suggest that there is real potential to generate new crop varieties; that recover this lost relationship with beneficial fungi and improve the sustainability of future food production systems.”
The study involved scientists causing fungi to the colonise roots of three different varieties of wheat in laboratory chambers that either imitated current weather conditions or those projected for 2100.
Photo: University of Cambridge
In the Netherlands, 68 companies are suspected to have wrongly sold or recommended organic products in recent years. The protection of the term ‘organic’ is currently in the hands of the NVWA. In order to be able to act decisively in the future against unauthorised use of the protected term, the organic sector is pushing for greater protection of the term ‘organic’ itself. To ensure that the consumer can be sure that a product is organic, organic specialists such as Bionext are calling for Skal to be responsible for checking the unauthorised use of the term ‘organic’ by non-registered companies as well as checking organic farms. Strict compliance is of great importance to guarantee confidence in the organic quality mark.
TAGS: bio, organic, Netherlands