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What exactly is organic vegetable?

What exactly is organic vegetable?

Broadly speaking, every national food regulator follows a set of strict guidelines issued by the Codex Commission (CODEX). This is a United Nations and World Health Organisation Body; whose purpose is to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in food trade through a series of strict guidelines for organic and other foods. In other words, the CODEX is the global blueprint for organic standards, adopted by countries who want to harmonise and regulate the organic industry. This covers rigid production standards for growing, storing, processing, packaging and shipping of food and includes:

Avoidance of use of synthetic chemicals (e.g. fertilisers, pesticides, antibiotics, food additives), irradiation and the use of sewage sludge;

Avoidance of use of genetically modified seeds;

Farmland that has been free from prohibited chemical inputs for a number of years (oftenly three or more);

the keeping of detailed written production and sales records (for audit trail);

the maintaining of strict physical separation of organic products from non-certified products;

Undergoing periodic on-site inspections.

And that’s just for starters. In addition to the daily running of the farm, farmers are typically required to engage in a number of additional activities:

Study: the organic standards, which cover in specific detail what is and is not allowed for every aspect of farming, including storage, transport and sale.

Compliance: farm facilities and production methods must comply with the standards, which may involve modifying facilities, sourcing and changing suppliers, etc.

Documentation: extensive paperwork is required, detailing farm history and current set-up, and usually including results of soil and water tests.

Planning:  a written annual production plan must be submitted, detailing everything from seed to sale: seed sources, field and crop locations, fertilisation and pest-control activities, harvest methods, storage locations, etc.

Inspection: annual on-site inspections of farmland are required, with a physical tour, examination of records, and an oral interview.

Fee: an annual inspection/re-certification fee.

Record-keeping: Day-to-Day farming and marketing records, covering all activities, must be available for inspection at any time.

Once a producer or farmer has satisfied inspectors that they have met all the above criteria, they will be granted their certification and the end-goal of marketing their products as “certified organic” is attained. However, it’s not then over – short-notice or surprise inspections can be made and specific tests (e.g. soil, water, plant tissue) may be requested. This will keep the  farmers on their toes and vigilant in maintaining compliance. 

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