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Regulatory options

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In order to assess the Organic Orders and make recommendations to DAWR on the net benefit of changing Australia’s approach to regulation and standards applied to the export of organic products, the Review is assessing four regulatory options for their costs and benefits including:

Option 1: Keeping the status quo

Under the status quo, all products exported and marketed as organic must be certified to the National Standard, via certification by one of the third-party certifiers recognised by the DAWR.

The organic industry views this option as being the very minimum level for future regulations and a baseline for improvement. While the status quo facilitates some market access, progress has been slow. Improvements in market access would flow from greater country‑to‑country equivalences of regulatory regimes. Currently, the largest destination marketplaces for Australian organic produce require destination country certification in addition to Australian Certification, which adds significantly to the cost of organic exports.

Option 2: Selected recognition of other countries’ standards

Under this option, all products exported and marketed as organic would be certified to the National Standard or another standard recognised by the Australian Government.

The regulation of organic exports would be modified so that, instead of requiring all products exported and marketed as organic to be certified to the National Standard, the regulations would also allow products to be exported and marketed as organic if they meet certain other defined standards.

This change would, however, potentially reduce the regulatory burden experienced by Australian businesses by not requiring them to hold multiple organic certifications to access any given market. Australian businesses would, of course, be free to hold certification to the National Standard, but it would not be mandatory for export to all foreign markets.

Importing country requirements must always be adhered to when exporting. The removal of compulsory OPCs for those countries that don’t require them would provide a cost saving to the industry. 

This option would benefit greatly from improved MiCOR database capabilities to include organic regulations and ensure the most current information is available to exporters.

Option 3: Removing certification requirements for organic exports

This option involves a complete relaxation of regulation of the export and marketing of products as Australian and organic. Under this option, the only constraint to the export and marketing of products as organic would be the need to meet importing requirements, including organic certification requirements, where they exist. This would reduce the regulatory costs on Australian businesses, but also involve losing legislative control of the standards under which products exported and marketed as organic are produced.

This option would place Australian exporters of organic produce at a competitive disadvantage in a global trading marketplace. It would also threaten existing equivalence recognition of organic regulations and undermine the negotiation of further equivalence arrangements. The organic industry views this option as untenable. Among the concerns, this option would mean that Australian produce would need to be marketed overseas with other country logos.

Option 4: Replacing the National Standard with AS 6000-2009

This option aims to address the problem of confusion in the market due to the co-existence of multiple certification systems. This would not address the issue of regulation in the domestic market, but would align the standards that products must meet whether exported or certified to AS 6000-2009. Though the standards are similar (AS 6000-2009 was modelled off the National Standard), there are advantages and disadvantages to the ongoing use (and modification) of each. These factors would be considered.

This option needs to be considered further. It does not recognise that both standards are almost identical in compliance requirements; however, the systems that potentially underpin each standard are substantially different.

There needs to be review of each standard’s processes—the current National Standard, its administration, including the competent authority, versus the Standards Australia framework for standards setting, and whether DAWR will remain as the competent authority.  

Further considerations for this option include:

  • industry administration of the AS 6000 (through OISCC or another body)
  • importing country requirements (such as transfer certificates and/or OPCs under the AS 6000 system)
  • importing country preference for dealing with an organisation such as Australian Standards versus a committee of industry volunteers
  • review arrangements for the AS 6000
  • enforcement of AS 6000

The MP100 document, which provides the requirements for certification to the AS 6000, would also need to be completed, in order for organic operators to become certified to the AS 6000 and to meet the requirements of the Codex Alimentarius Commission[1]—as set out in the Guidelines for the Production, Processing, Labelling and Marketing of Organically Produced Foods[2].

Review of both standards, and the possible systems for each, must include an adequate cost‑benefit analysis.

Other considerations, while not in the scope of the Deloitte consultation paper, include domestic regulation of the term “organic”—for example, this may positively impact on the ability of Australia to gain equivalency with the USA—the interaction between the organic standard and the Office of Gene Technology Regulator, and the proposed compensation for GMO contamination by the WA Government.

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[1] The Codex Alimentarius Commission is an intergovernmental body with over 170 members, within the framework of the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme established by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO). The main result of the Commissions’ work is the Codex Alimentarius, a collection of internationally adopted food standards, guidelines, codes of practice and other recommendations, with the objective of protecting the health of consumers and ensuring fair practices in the food trade.