Posted at Business World on February 21, 2012 10:14:05 PM
THE PHILIPPINES will propose to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in April the adoption of a regional organic standard in a bid to encourage trade of organically grown crops, an official said yesterday.
The advocacy came as the Global Organic Market Access (GOMA) approved on Feb. 12 the Asian Regional Organic Standard (AROS), a multinational, public-private initiative among 15 countries including the Philippines, a United Nations agency said in a statement on Saturday.
“The Philippines initiated to have the ASEAN approve the organic standard for adoption, since not all ASEAN members are part of the [GOMA] Asia Working Group that developed the standard,” Lara G. Vivas, Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Product Standards senior science research specialist, told BusinessWorld in a telephone interview.
The 15-member working group included ASEAN economies such as Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Cambodia.
Adoption of the AROS will be discussed by the ASEAN Standards on Horticulture Product in a meeting set for April 24-26 in Hanoi, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) statement said. After such, the ASEAN Working Group on Crops will take up the standard for review, and once approved, will be forwarded to ASEAN senior ministers for the final go signal.
The AROS, Ms. Vivas explained, covers all crop production, processing, and labeling — even wild harvests such as mushrooms which is not covered by the standards set by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM).
“We aligned the AROS with the international standards, although livestock is not covered in our version. There is also a difference with the conversion requirement,” she said.
The conversion requirement determines the time it takes for a farmer transitioning to organic methods to rid his crops of any trace of inorganic chemicals. Developed economies such as the European Union and the United States follow a conversion requirement of 24-36 months while the AROS only indicates 12-18 months.
“We adopted a shorter conversion requirement because for tropical climates, the chemicals can be cleared at a shorter time, and that’s what we’re trying to tell other countries,” Ms. Vivas said.
The global standard also adopted the longer conversion requirement from developed countries.
Asked whether such difference will present a hurdle in coming up with an equivalency principle for Asian and EU organic standards, the researcher said, “It all depends on the crop and other factors, but there is a possibility that [a crop] may or may not pass EU standards.”
GOMA is an agricultural initiative led by UNCTAD, IFOAM, and the Food and Agriculture Organization. — E. J. Diaz