What is organics?

Organic agriculture is more than just spray or residue free. It is a holistic style of farming where the health of the soil and environment is prioritised, including the surrounding flora and fauna. Farmers provide positive care for the environment by focusing on the long-term health of their land, waterways, soil and livestock rather than the short term gain. They use innovative and modern farming techniques to control pest and disease.

Organic production means to produce products that are made without genetic modification (GMO's), the routine use of synthetic pesticides or herbicides, animals have been treated fairly and rural communities have been united and empowered along the way. Organic production is the only sustainable option for benefiting ourselves, our environment and future generations.

As New Zealand’s leading organic certifier, we are often asked some common questions about organic produce and processes. Here are some of those frequently asked questions.

 
 
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What is the difference between organic and certified organic?

Certified organic products have been checked, audited and certified by a trusted certification agency like BioGro. In New Zealand, you can’t trust an organic product as authentic unless it has a certification logo like the BioGro logo on the packaging. It is important to beware of imitations – products that say they are organic and sustainable, but they can be far from it.

New Zealand is currently an unregulated organics market which means greenwashing is common. Greenwashing is the marketing or promotion of a product as more sustainable and organic then what it may be.


How do I avoid greenwashing?

Avoiding greenwashing is as simple as looking for certification logos like the BioGro logo on a products packaging. However, it is also important to verify the license number below each BioGro logo to make sure it is current.

Our Online organic search is a great way of verifying license numbers and finding BioGro certified producers.

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Organic food – what is it and why is it better?

Organics is more than just ‘spray-free’ or ‘residue-free’. Organic food is grown naturally without the routine use of synthetic pesticides or fertilisers. Organic farmers aim to produce healthy and nutritious food from a balanced living soil and any processing is designed to retain its 'natural goodness.' The production of organic food looks after the environment. With organic production, animals have been treated humanely and rural communities have been united and empowered along the way.


Why does organic food sometimes cost more than non-organic food?

When you choose organic food you are paying for the real cost of real food. Organic produce costs more than conventionally produced food as it often costs more to produce and distribute due to higher labour costs and smaller economies of scale. As more funding becomes available to the organics industry for research and development and more people buy organic, the costs will reduce. These cost reductions should be passed on to the consumer.


What is organic farming?

Organic farming aims to respect all life and embrace biodiversity by conserving and minimising negative impacts on the natural environment.

 The key principles of organic farming are:

  • encouraging and enhancing biological cycles;
  • maintaining and improving long-term soil structure and fertility;
  • practising humane management of livestock;
  • maintaining genetic diversity;
  • cycling organic matter and nutrients within a production system;
  • minimising all forms of pollution;
  • adopting an integrated management system for soil, crops and the environment for weed, pest and disease control;
  • aiming to produce food of high nutritional quality.

Does organic farming work in the long-term?

Yes. Most scientists accept that there is a sound scientific basis to organic farming. In the past, there has been some scientific prejudice against organics, however this has changed dramatically in the last decade. Organics is now taught in many teaching institutions, polytechnics and universities throughout New Zealand and globally.


Is organic farming just for smallholders and alternative lifestylers?

No. BioGro certified farmers are serious commercial producers and produce a wide range of products. They are distinguished by how they manage their farms, not by the size of their farms or enterprises. Exports of organic produce from New Zealand is currently between $215-225 million dollars per year. The total New Zealand market is estimated to be $450-$530 million*.

*New Zealand Organic Sector Report 2012


If organic farmers avoid agricultural chemicals and fertilisers, how do they look after their soils?

BioGro certified farmers only avoid synthetic and soluble fertilisers. They are dedicated to building soil fertility and structure using only natural forms of fertilisers and other soil building practices. This generates soils with high nutrient and water-holding capacity and productivity.

BioGro-certified farmers use compost, mineral fertilisers (lime, dolomite, ground phosphate rock) and liquid fertilisers (fish or seaweed-based) to maintain soil fertility. They do not apply synthetic fertilisers.


How do BioGro-certified producers protect against pests and diseases without using chemicals?

Pests and diseases are controlled by:

  • employing well-established organic growing methods;
  • using the best plant varieties and livestock breeds for organics;
  • having a diversity of flora and fauna which maintains an ecological balance and encourages natural predators;
  • using other biological controls such as pheromone mating disruption and bacterial preparations like Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt);
  • applying a limited range of natural sprays such as pyrethrum;
  • selecting livestock for disease resistance and using homeopathic remedies and other permitted treatments when required.

Is it possible to grow an export crop without using chemical sprays?

Yes. Fresh organic produce is being exported to all major markets around the world. Increasingly, international markets demand the produce they import to be certified organic.


Do organic farmers turn the clock back and use horses instead of tractors and other modern farming equipment?

No. BioGro certified farmers use appropriate and innovative technologies to maximise efficiency of their operations.


Why do people farm organically?

Both philosophical and market reasons lead people into organic farming - reasons are as diverse as the farmers themselves. Some of these reasons are:

  • prefer organics in order to help protect the environment and want to work more in harmony with nature;
  • are concerned about the effects of agrichemicals on the health of their family, farm workers, consumers and themselves;
  • see the market potential for organics;
  • prefer the challenge and lifestyle of organics;
  • enjoy the satisfaction gained and positive feedback from the markets.

What prevents producers from exploiting people by wrongfully marketing their produce as organic?

In key markets such as Europe, Japan, USA and Canada, the use of the label 'organic' is protected by law. In some countries including New Zealand, there are still no laws protecting the word 'organic', so anyone can claim that their produce is organic even if they're far from it. Labeling laws are changing rapidly, and most consumers and retailers now look for independent organic certification from certifiers like BioGro to guarantee that the organic produce is genuine. The BioGro logo is on many well-known products seen in retail shops today.


Why oppose Genetic Modification?

Organic producers are opposed to the introduction of genetically modified crops and livestock breeds to New Zealand agriculture for a variety of reasons:

  • GM food is not real food. It is food that has been genetically modified and altered using harmful genetic engineering techniques;
  • it is harmful and irreversible;
  • it is a threat to New Zealand's clean green image;
  • there is no international consumer demand;
  • it is a threat to organics;
  • there is an increasing demand for organics here in New Zealand and around the world;
  • if GMOs are released there will be increased costs for organic producers;
  • pests are becoming resistant to GM products.