Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Organic-Product Labeling Necessary
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The Philippines has much to gain in enhancing the labeling, standards and certification of “organics” that will help promote the shift to an organic way of life and lifestyle, and help boost trading systems that will benefit both producers and consumers.
Roland Cabigas, managing director of La Liga Policy Institute, said what is needed is a labeling system with a clear government-check mechanism, to validate labels and promote products and byproducts certified as “organic.”
This way, he said, trading system will be enhanced, benefiting both the consumers and producers.
Cabigas, a convener of Go Organic! Philippines, just came from an international workshop held in New Delhi, India, dubbed “Workshop on Development of Standard Certification System for Organic Agricultural Products,” where he presented La Liga’s country paper entitled “Enhancing Labeling, Standards and Certification for Sustainable, Organic and Ecological Agriculture in the Philippines.”
The four-day event was jointly sponsored by the Asian Productivity Organization, an intergovernmental body based in Tokyo, Japan, as well as the Ministry of Agriculture of India and the National Productivity Council of India from May 16 to 20 at the India International Center.
The activity was participated by delegates, including key government officials and officers of private development organizations, from the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Indonesia, Nepal, Vietnam, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Republic of China (Taiwan), Japan and Thailand.
Among the resource persons were Dr. A.K. Yadav from the Ministry of Agriculture of India; Gerald Hermann, past president of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements; Prof. Shih Shiung Chen, president of Mingdao University based in Taiwan; and Dr. Muhammad Saeed representing the Asian Productivity Organization.
During his presentation, Cabigas stressed that labels, standards and certification should be developed not just for full, pure or completely organic agriculture products, but also for products of farms still on their transition to becoming full organic.
In an interview with the BusinessMirror, Cabigas said developing labels and standards for products that range from organic, semi-organic, organically grown, naturally farmed, pesticide free or less chemicals is important, instead of limiting the certification and labeling to “organic.”
Broadening the labeling, standards and certification policy to cover the bigger section of sustainable, organic and ecological agriculture practices can potentially contribute higher value-added in terms of the over-all growth and development goal of the country’s agriculture sector, the shift towards more sustainable, organic and ecological agriculture, Cabigas said.
While there is no denying the substantial steps undertaken by Philippine government agencies in partnership with nongovernment and people’s organization networks in formulating an organic agriculture standard and certification process that is compliant with international standards, he said there is a need to review the current Philippine standards on the certification and labeling of organic products and byproducts.
The current Philippine standards were developed in 2005, but have not been updated to include more recent consensus in Asian and international standards.
“As it is currently framed, there is, however, a very serious limitation to the Philippine organic agriculture labeling, standards and certification policies,” Cabigas said.
He noted that there is little mention of nonthird-party certification including first-and second-party certification and participatory guarantee systems.
He said while no systematic baseline exists, many estimate a bigger number of full, pure and complete organic farms that follow internal control systems but cannot afford third-party certification and/or those who are not targeting the export market.
Cabigas said there is a need to improve the current policy language on organic agriculture labeling, standards and certification to put equal emphasis on nonthird-party certification.
“Documentation of labeling and non-third party certification practices is very much needed in order to develop more comprehensive options for organic agriculture certification.
This will necessitate a review of the current Philippine Organic Agriculture Act as well as its implementing rules and regulations. In particular, key provisions of the implementing rules and regulations on the transition period for first- and second-party certification must be seriously reconsidered,” he said.
More critically, he said, labeling, standards and certification policies only cover and are applicable to full, pure and/or completely organic agricultural products. As such, in the case of the Philippines, it only covers less than 1 percent of sustainable, organic and ecological agriculture production.
By Business Mirror
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