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AFI: verifying organic farming practices to prevent fraud
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Opening of the International Conference "Improving Integrity of Organic Supply Chains" in Odesa, Ukraine. (Photo © FiBL)
In September, the International Conference "Improving Integrity of Organic Supply Chains" took place in Odesa, Ukraine. One important result of the conference is a demand for more transparency. Being crucial for the organic markets and exports from Ukraine, more transparency could be achieved by shorter supply chains, the verification of good organic farming practices and traceability.
Divergent guidelines as a burden for organic producers
The conference’s participants representing the USDA, European Commission and the Ukrainian government agreed upon starting to discuss the registration of organic control bodies as well as operators within Ukraine. Further, the attendees discussed about the European Commission’s special guidelines for imports from Ukraine and Russia. Even though, the majority of the participants assessed the guidelines as being helpful, concerns regarding the divergent implementation of the guidelines in different member states of the EU were also expressed. As Bo van Elzakker of Agro Eco and also one of the AFI initiators, states: "these additional guidelines, imposed on top of the general control measures, are a burden for serious organic producers, processors and businesses, and we wish that those supply chains are relieved from extra measures, once they have demonstrated consistent compliance."
Residue analysis as a controversial topic
Sampling activities as well as residue analysis causing high costs for the exporters and importers, were also a strongly debated topic at the conference. The participants concluded that such analyses, done in a risk-oriented manner, would be more efficient and effective (e.g. taking samples during the season). Jochen Neuendorff of the certifier GfRS and third AFI initiator underlines: "Knowing that it is possible to grow conventional products without residues in the final product might send a wrong signal to producers and exporters alike. It is better to focus on verifying good organic farming practices, shorter supply chains and traceability."
The Odesa declaration
As a result of the conference, the participants welcomed further AFI type workshops addressing food and feed fraud and invite all organic supply chain stakeholders to support the endeavor to strengthen organic integrity.
The conference was organized by the Anti Fraud Initiative (AFI), i.e. the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL, Agro Eco and Gesellschaft für Ressourcenschutz GfRS, together with IFOAM - Organics International and EOCC, the platform of the European organic certifiers.