Workflow of the new version of the Integrated Farm Assurance Standard © GLOBALG.A.P.
GLOBALG.A.P. has decided to postpone the launch of version 6 of the Integrated Farm Assurance (IFA) Standard until 2022 in light of the ongoing pandemic.
According to a statement issued by the certification body: “We have seen a very successful first round of public consultation. Hundreds of people have taken part in our ongoing World Consultation Tour and we have received over 1000 comments. Nevertheless, the coronavirus pandemic has hindered participation from many important parties, such as certification bodies and focus groups. Rather than launch a standard which is not fully consulted and tested, the GLOBALG.A.P. Board has decided to extend the timeline of development. The extension will allow more time for stakeholders to give their input and more time for sufficient testing. Field trials, which are critical for testing the new approach on farm level and assessing its audibility before the launch, and a third public consultation period will take place in 2021.”
The launch of version 6 was originally planned for September 2021, with obligatory implementation as of September 2022. The timeline has now been extended as follows: The second draft will be available for the second consultation phase in December 2020. The second round of the World Consultation Tour will also begin in December 2020 and continue into the new year. The field trials – originally planned for December 2020 to Jan 2021 – will take place in May to June 2021, alongside an additional public consultation period (#3).
Version 6 will be finalised and published in April 2022, with the usual transition period of one year. It will therefore become obligatory in April 2023.
© The Hindu, C. VENKATACHALAPATHY
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.”
© Réussir Fruits et Légumes
The US Center for Food Safety filed a lawsuit with a coalition of organic farms and stakeholders challenging the US Department of Agriculture’s decision to allow hydroponic operations to be certified organic. According to Planetwatch, the lawsuit contends that hydroponic operations violate organic standards because they fail to build healthy soils and asks the court to stop the USDA from allowing hydroponically-produced crops to be certified. The US is one of the few countries that will allow hydroponics to be certified organic. Mexico, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and 24 European countries all ban hydroponic vegetable production to be labelled organic.
The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the body assigned by Congress to advise the USDA, has repeatedly asked the USDA to ban organic certification of hydroponics. The NOSB recommended in 2010 that hydroponics be prohibited from organic certification. The USDA continues to ignore that recommendation. In January 2019, the Center for Food Safety filed a legal petition asking the USDA to ban hydroponics from organic certification. The USDA denied the request that same year.
The lawsuit claims that denying the petition violated the Administrative Procedure Act and the Organic Foods Production Act, which requires farmers to build soil fertility to obtain organic certification. Hydroponic crops are grown without soil using water-based nutrient solutions. Synthetic salts are the most common nutrients used in hydroponics, and most of them are not allowed in products certified organic.
“Healthy soil is the foundation of organic farming,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety. “Organic farmers and consumers believe that the Organic label means not just growing food in soil, but improving the fertility of that soil. USDA’s loophole for corporate hydroponics to be sold under the Organic label guts the very essence of Organic.”
The basis of organic agriculture is to feed the soil, not the plant. Dave Chapman of Long Wind Farm told Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont: “Organic farming is based on enhancing and cultivating the wonderful balance of the biological systems in the soil. It isn’t just about replacing chemical fertilizers with natural fertilizers.”
One of the objections to hydroponics is that it relies heavily on fertilisers. Oregon Tilth Certified Organic states that hydroponics relies on large volumes of soluble fertilisers with little nutrient cycling. Commercial hydroponic growers will rarely reveal the fertilisers they use, according to the Texas Organic Research Center. Another objection is that hydroponics use chemicals, which organic producers are prohibited from using.
The European Commission has published a brief outlining the importance of the organic farming sector. Recent production and market trends show the importance that organics has gained over the last decade. Organic farming responds to a specific consumer demand for sustainable food products, promoting more sustainable farming practices and contributing to the protection of the environment and improved animal welfare. This growing demand for organic products is matched by a rapidly growing production: EU organic area has increased by 70 % in the last ten years and organic retail sales reached €34 billion in 2017, providing farmers with further added value on their production.
The organic sector responds to an increasing desire for sustainable food production, and as such, it fits perfectly under the CAP objectives. At the same time, it provides higher prices to farmers. Over the next years, improved farming practices and increased use of technology and digitalisation have the potential to reduce production costs, with positive impacts on farm income and consumer prices.
The strong growth rates in both production and consumption indicate that the organic market has not yet reached its maturity stage and further growth can still be expected. Organic farming is already responding to further emerging consumer trends such as veganism and demand for locally produced food products, turning these challenges into opportunities.