OWN asked industry players about the major accomplishments and obstacles the organic and sustainable sectors have experienced over the past decade.
Markus Pandur, of UHTCO Corp EU, highlighted a common concern that needs to be addressed: the cost of regulation, certification and access to traditional healthy foods.
Over the last decade, the organic movement has reached the mainstream. Even people who do not pay much attention to health issues may now buy organic certified products, simply because in some instances, there is barely a price difference or if there is only an organic offer for certain products.
The big players in the market have incorporated the organic seal in their lines and marketing efforts and are taking advantage of economies of scale; putting pressure on everyone below them to keep prices low.
This pressure on the manufacturers and as a result on the farmers, has become a serious issue. The big players want to also offer products in organic quality, but no one wants to pay the extra price, a minimum requirement now, if they want to sell.
In developing countries such as Peru, this has led to situations where organic products are working against the wealth of the farmers, who often work the most and earn the least in the chain.
The disadvantage for farmers in developing countries is often that organic certification is very much a profitable business and therefore expensive to obtain.
So while it is positive that the organic movement is growing, the certification system needs to become more effective and efficient, without adding too much extra work and cost to producers and exporters, especially for small suppliers from countries outside the European Union.
For example, the Novel Food regulation is restricting without any differentiation or criteria and banning well known and widely consumed traditional food from third-world countries from entering the EU. Take the Sacha inchi oil and seeds. It has taken more than seven years to get a food consumed already in Peru for many years, and more recently in other countries outside the EU, formal approval as a novel food.
Even though the world is more aware of the health benefits provided by all those ancient plants and their benefits for health through nutrition, there is a major economical issue for suppliers in countries outside the EU and even for consumers within the EU, who are not allowed to choose freely what foods they want to consume, based on traditional knowledge.