New law to finally set standards for what counts as 'organic'

Thu, Mar 30

Farmers and growers are celebrating the passing of a new law that will let regulators set standards for what counts as organic products and fine sellers that don't comply.

The Government's legislation, the Organic Products and Production Bill, has been moving through Parliament since 2020.

A new organics standard scheme will require all businesses that want to market their products as "organic" to meet certain standards.

The legislation also introduces fines for anyone who deliberately deceives consumers by claiming their product is organic when it is not.

Individuals can be fined up to $200,000, and companies up to $600,000.

The chairperson of Organics Aotearoa New Zealand, Tiffany Tompkins, also praised the bill, saying it will give New Zealand access to more markets overseas.

"We're one of the last OECD countries to get an organic standard for New Zealand.

"For organic farmers, it will mean more market access to markets like the European Union and the United States," she said.

The overseas organic produce market is worth over $200 billion a year alone.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw welcomed the bill, saying it was overdue.

"As the old guy in those cheese ads used to say, good things take time," he said in Parliament.

The party's agriculture spokesperson, Teanau Tuiono, said it would give certainty to consumers.

"The organics market has been a bit loose, and that's why this bill is so essential… because it gives us that certainty."

However, the bill was opposed by the ACT Party — the only opponents of the legislation in Parliament.

ACT's primary industries spokesperson Mark Cameron said the bill will impose unnecessary costs and regulations on small-scale producers.

"You can imagine if you're a retiree or you're selling to the likes of field markets that happen on the weekend up and down the country.

"It's going to regulate people out of business, and that's the problem," he said.