Organics law?

Organics law?

4 June, 2013
Barriers to mainstream
State of organic food labelling in Hong Kong
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Farmers markets, dedicated organic food sections, organic food delivery services, you name it, the organic food scene is definitely growing far and wide. Globally, the organic food market rose from USD17.9 billion in 2000 to USD59.1 billion in 2010.  More and more consumers are concerned about the quality of food and knowing where their food comes from.  Having safe and healthy food still rank as the top reasons for consumers when choosing organics, according to a recent survey done by the Hong Kong Organic Resource Centre.  Interestingly (great news for environmentalists), the percentage of people who choose organic with protection of the environment as their main reason has gone from 50% to 64%.  Hong Kong is well-known for being a concrete jungle and fertile farmland is quickly diminishing, meaning that the majority of food in Hong Kong is imported.  There are currently 2,500 farms in total in Hong Kong, with 409 being organic and 100 certified organic ones.  However, the produce from certified organic farms only contributes to 0.25% of local consumption. 
 
Jonathan Wong, Director of the Hong Kong Organic Resource Centre, a 10-year old NGO that has been leading the way in developing Hong Kong’s very own organic food label and certifying local organic produce.  Wong emphasizes that one of the barriers to mainstreaming organics is the lack of supply of certified organic products.  Another barrier is that consumers often mistrust labels.  While it is now illegal for vendors to label non-organics to be organics, when vendors are asked which of their produce are organics, they simply say everything is organic, according to Wong, who has sent some of his team out to test out what’s really going on in wet markets.  There have also been cases of produce stores printing out fake certificates indicating that they are selling certified organic produce when they were not.  Wong hopes to see legislation on regulating organic labeling as there is currently no legal definition of what is organic. 
 
As the majority of Hong Kong’s produce come from China, the credibility of organic food labels coming from China is something that worries consumers, especially with the numerous food scandals in China, from melamine milk to gutter cooking oils.  What’s the point of paying a higher price for organic food when one is unsure of whether the food is really organic?  Wong points out that in China, the number of certifying bodies for organic food labeling went from 300 to 30 after strict regulation came into place last year.  This makes us wonder what exactly the organic food labels of the other 270 bodies meant.  And not surprisingly, only one out of the 30 certification bodies uses the IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture) standard. 
 
In order to help standardize Hong Kong’s organic labels, Wong and his team are working with IFOAM to ensure that Hong Kong’s organic labeled products are the same as international standards.  As Hong Kong’s organic label is increasingly being recognized by consumers, the Hong Kong Organic Resource Centre continuously works with retailers, producers and importers on certifying products such that more products with Hong Kong’s local organic label are available for consumers.
 
For more information about Hong Kong’s organic labels, visit: www.hkorc.org
 
Image via: Freshfruitportal.com
 

By: Ecozine Staff
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