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Organic Labelling

NASAA is one of the most common certifications. Lyn Austin, secretary of the NASAA, says, "Customers can have a degree of confidence that the label 'certified organic' has substance to it. It's not completely subjective, being supported by third-party rules and regulations."

Obtaining the right to use NASAA's logo is complex but in essence growers must agree to comply with NASAA's written standards, prove they have a management plan in place to run their land organically, and allow inspections of their farm (including soil samples and assessment of the contamination potential from neighbouring properties).

If they pass three years of surveillance (with annual and spot visits thereafter) they can use the 'certified organic' label. Until then, they label their products 'conversion to organic'.

Genetic Engineering

Organics certification groups also keep an eye on the labels 'GE free' and 'GMO free'.

Organic farming methods prohibit genetic engineering and modification but according to Lyn Austin it is hard to monitor.

She explains that it is nearly impossible to test products to the point you can be confident no genetically modified elements exist. Certifiers like NASAA do not issue labels claiming the product is GE- or GMO-free.

The term they use is 'non-GMO'.

Scott Kinnear, from the Biological Farmers of Australia, says Fair Trading law, administered through the ACCC, "imposes a burden of truth on a manufacturer who says their products are GE free".

If a product labelled GE free is found to contain GE ingredients the manufacturer will be found in breach of trading laws. Companies that use the label 'GE-free' do so, he says, "at their peril" since penalties for misleading the public are serious.

Certification and labelling of Australian organics is about to undergo significant change, with Standards Australia pushing for one label and a unified national standard, a move applauded by most in the organics industry, including the Organic Federation of Australia.

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