To: May 30th 2017
The Chief Executive Officer,
Food Safety and Standards Authority of India,
03rd Floor, Food and Drug Administration Bhawan,
Kotla Road, New Delhi – 110002
Sub: Draft Organic Foods Regulations 2017 – Mandatory certification/PGS neither viable nor guaranteed to provide “organicity” – need greater exemption from this proposal – reg.
Ref: FSSAI’s Draft Food Safety and Standards (Organic Foods) Regulations, 2017 – F.No.CPB/03/Standards/FSSAI/2016
This is with regard to FSSAI’s notice calling for suggestions, views, comments etc. from stakeholders on its draft regulations related to Organic Foods. We had in the past communicated our views with the FSSAI (https://kisanswaraj.in/2017/04/06/asha-engages-with-fssai-on-organic-foods-regulation-by-the-food-safety-authority/) and would like to reiterate a few points once more:
- At the outset, we would like to emphasise the importance of the current issue under discussion, and the ramifications that this has in future too. This then deserves wider consultations and not just the one that was done in Delhi in December 2016. FSSAI should be going to at least those states where organic farming is being promoted and practised on a large scale, to take up wider consultations before it freezes its proposals related to regulating organic foods in India. We hope that this suggestion from our side will be taken up seriously by the Authority.
- Organic agriculture and produce contribute tremendously to the mandate of FSSAI – that of ensuring safe food for all. We find that FSSAI is showing undue haste in wanting to regulate organic produce, without first providing any rationale for how fake organic produce is going to endanger food safety nor what is the extent of problem of fake organic in India, based on sound scientific evidence. We are concerned about this because we believe that organic agriculture is in a nascent stage and needs a lot of support to grow, and not impediments that curtail its growth, in the name of regulation or anything else. On the other hand, we find that FSSAI has not taken any pro-active action so far with regard to hazardous foods like pesticides-laced food or GM foods.
- Current quality assurance systems like third party certification or Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) do not really enhance the authenticity of organic, for the simple reason that there is an inbuilt conflict of interest in both the systems. Therefore, consumer interests do not necessarily get protected by making adoption of either system as mandatory as per Indian regulations.
Both of these have serious implications for smallholder organic farmers, who are not organized and have no external hand holding by government or civil society groups or the FSSAI. The PGS system is of course preferable compared to the third party certification system in that it at least builds a peer support system for beginners and others. The onus of providing PGS support to every last farmer who wants to opt for organic agriculture should then fall on the concerned State agencies, which currently is not the case. No department is obligated to ensure PGS facilitation as of now for those farmers who want to shift to organic outside the scheme-based support. Meanwhile, third party certification continues to be expensive, except in its group certification form, which would mean the same situation as PGS as far as individual farmers desirous of shifting to organic are concerned. Given this big gap between the need to shift more farmers to organic farming and the actual support systems on the ground, it is not advisable for FSSAI to make either of these quality assurance systems mandatory.
- Quality assurance can be enhanced by setting up a lot of testing facilities that are accessible to all citizens, as well as education of consumers whereby they understand that traceability is an important component of quality assurance. FSSAI somehow refuses to work along these lines assuming that it is not in their mandate to be doing so (setting up labs or getting citizens access to affordable testing facilities) – in reality, this would facilitate FSSAI’s mandate enormously, with active citizen involvement.
- It is important to note that the organic supply chains usually are direct, from production to retail in the current scenario, except in the case of branded organic products which take up direct retailing spaces or supply to (organic) food retailers. To that extent, traceability is a more important component than certification ridden by conflict of interest. To that extent farmers should be able to self-certify themselves and sell through retail entities. Apart from PGS/third party certification with their built in traceability systems, and direct marketing which brings consumers face to face with their producers, retailers within an annual turnover cutoff (put in an exemption category) can be mandated to maintain traceability through display board with all relevant details of sourcing with no requirement for mandatory certification/guarantee through PGS.
- PGS-Organic Council, which was a precursor to PGS-India, should also be notified straightaway as a valid quality assurance system that is already in place.
- 7. It is not out of place to point out that FSSAI neither is authorized to, nor capable of regulating anything at the production end. The statute itself keeps farmers out of the purview of the Act. To create regulations that are based on production end processes is therefore questionable.
- It would be useful if FSSAI actually lays down better regulations for organic certification agencies and insists on sample testing of organic produce within the certification procedures laid down (this is the case in European, Chinese and American regulation of organic, as pertaining to certification agencies’ responsibilities and procedures) rather than insist on mandatory certification.
- We are attaching our key suggestions/comments on the draft regulations in the prescribed formats, apart from sharing our earlier correspondence on the subject. Our main demand is that FSSAI regulate the big players in the organic sector at this point of time (using a cut-off related to turnover of an entity) without stifling the producers or small retail related to organic in the name of mandatory certification/guarantee. Such a cut-off on turnover should be revised upwards periodically.
SIGNED ON/ENDORSED BY:
Kavitha Kuruganti, Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA)
- Anantha Naturals Private Limited (Bio Basics), Tamil Nadu
- Aruna Rodrigues, Sunray Harvesters, Madhya Pradesh
- Banyan Roots Organics, Udaipur
- Bhoomgaadi Organic Farmers Producer Company Limited, Dantewada, Chattisgarh
- Buffalo Back, Bangalore
- Chaitanya, Green Current, The Organic Lifestyle Store, Mumbai
- Daxin Gujarat Sajiv Kheti Samaj, Tanachha
- Dharamitra and 500 associated farmers, Maharashtra
- Dilip V. Gode, Environment Conservationist
10. Dr Rajinder Chaudhary, Kudarti Kheti Abhiyan, Haryana
11. Dr Suhas Kolhekar, National Alliance for People’s Movements (NAPM)
12. Dr V S Vijayan, Salim Ali Foundation, Kerala
13. Earthcare Books, Kolkata
14. Go Organic Life, Chennai
15. Grainny’s, Gurgaon
16. Gurgaon Organic Farmers’ Group, Gurgaon
17. Jatan: A Mission for Organic Farming
18. Karnataka Alliance for Safe Food
19. Kerala Jaiva Karshaka Samithi, Kerala
20. Kheti Virasat Mission, Punjab
21. Kudrati Kheti Haat, Punjab
22. Living Farms, Odisha
23. Madhu Farms, Gandhi Asramam, Pollachi
24. Madhusoodhanan K, Dhaanyam Superstores Private Limited, Chennai
25. Madhya Gujarat Sajiv Kheti Samaj, Nadiad
26. Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch, India
27. Nanmai Organics, Tirupur
28. Nityanand Jayaraman, Chennai Solidarity Group, Chennai
29. OFM-Organic Farmers Market, Chennai
30. Oovya Farms, Gandhi Asramam, Pollachi
31. Organic Farmers and Nagpur Seed Festival Group, Maharashtra
32. Organic Farming Association of India
33. Purva Naturals, Divansapudur, Pollachi
34. Ramkrushna Trust, Madhapar, Kutch
35. reStore, Chennai
36. Rythu Swarajya Vedika, Andhra Pradesh
37. Rythu Swarajya Vedika, Telangana
38. Sabarkantha Sajiv Kheti Manch, Modasa
39. Safe Food Alliance, Tamil Nadu
40. Saro Mangal Farms, Gandhi Asramam, Pollachi
41. Saurashtra Sajiv Kheti Abhiyan, Gujarat
42. Shantigram Nirman Mandal, Tanachha
43. Slow Food, Udaipur, Rajasthan
44. Sriram Foods, Divansapudur, Pollachi
45. Thalanmai Uzhavar Iyakkam, Tamil Nadu
46. Thanal, Kerala
47. Tharcharbu Iyakkam, Sirkali, Tamil Nadu
48. Upavan, Gurgaon
49. Valam Community Farm, Chennai
50. Valam Organic Stores, Chennai
51. Vanvadi Agro-ecological Regeneration Association (VARA), Maharashtra
52. Vedha Vanam, Tirunelveli
|Sr No.||Name and Address of the organisation/person, contact number and E-mail||Relevant section in the draft notification on which comments are being provided||Comments/ Suggestions||Rationale|
|1 & 2||Kavitha Kuruganti,
Address: A-124/6, First Floor, Katwaria Sarai, New Delhi 110 016.
Res: #302, Santhome Apartments, 33/1, 1st A Cross, Indiranagar I Stage, Bangalore 560038.
|Chapter II. 4: Any food offered or promoted for sale as ‘organic food’ shall comply with all the applicable provisions of one of the following:
i. National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP);
ii. Participatory Guarantee System for India (PGS-India);
iii. Any other system or standards as may be notified by the Food Authority from time to time.
However, organic food that is marketed through direct sales by the original producer/producer organization to the end consumer is exempt from the need of verification of compliance. This exemption does not apply to processed organic food products.
|ADD PGS Organic Council as II.4.iii. as an already recognized system.
DELETE the exemption restriction related to processed organic food products.
ADD exemption to retail sales of organic produce within an annual turnover of 2 crore rupees. This cut-off criterion is to be revised upwards periodically.
“However, organic food that is marketed through direct sales by the original producer/producer organization to the end consumer or to retail outlets within an annual turnover of 2 crore rupees (with this cut-off to be revised upwards periodically) are exempt from the need of verification of compliance”.
|PGS Organic Council has been a long existing system, as a precursor to the PGS-India system.
There is no rationale for not providing the same exemption to the processed organic food products too, if an organic producer collective is able to procure various ingredients from its own members, take up processing and sell to end consumers, since original producers and producer organisations should indeed be encouraged to get into processing for greater incomes.
Since small retail sales of organic produce is as good as direct marketing to end consumers by organic producers themselves (not many other players in the supply chain), and is only an easier conduit for direct sales by producers without producers themselves having to take on this role also, this exemption on compulsory certification/guarantee should be extended to them, upto a tune of 2 crore rupees annual turnover. However, even here, branded produce may be brought under compulsory certification. Such a system is followed in the USA.