Do Israeli Organic Standards Need Fixing?

organic food stall in IsraelIf you’re going to shell out the extra shekels for organic food, you’re want to be confident that you’re getting the real deal.

Personally, I think the price of organic food is worth paying, whether you’re buying it for selfish reasons (taste, avoiding nasty chemicals and GMOs) or altruistic ones (treading lightly our small country) and until recently, as far as I was concerned, anything in Israel labelled with the O-Word must be licensed and inspected by a government-authorised organisation.

So it came as a surprise to find out recently that organic labelling in Israel isn’t such as a clear-cut issue. A new law was passed by the Knesset last week with the intention of ensuring that organic food on sale in Israel really is organic. But the Israel Bio-organic Agriculture Association (IBOAA) claims that the law will not prohibit or limit the use of the term ‘organic’, and that any farmer will still be able to label his produce as they wish, reports Ha’aretz.

To be honest, after re-reading the Ha’aretz article (‘Organic’ label can mislead, warns Bio-organic Agro society) several times, I’m still left in the dark about what can and can’t be called ‘organic’. On the one hand, it says that organic food must be labelled with the Ministry of Agriculture logo plus the symbol of one of three licensed organic certifiers: Agrior, Skal Israel or IQC. So far, so good. But IBOAA maintains that the problem lies in enforcement: “The law will provide no advantage, and could even result in deception. The knowledge that a legal arrangement exists may lead consumers to mistakenly assume that the word organic appearing on labels means that the product is being supervised,” says Oranit Raz, IBOAA director.

Because most of Israel’s organic food is exported, mainly to the European Union and the UK (which has the most robust organic farming standards in the world), it needs to be strictly regulated to meet equivalent standards, otherwise the eco-friendly avocadoes and sweet potatoes will be sent on the first boat (or aeroplane) back to the Middle East. Shouldn’t Israelis who buy organic have the same peace of mind?

:: Ha’aretz, ‘Organic’ label can mislead, warns Bio-organic Agro society + Hebrew.

:: IBOAA statement (Hebrew).

Photo: Michael Green, Eden organic food store, Or Yehuda.

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3 thoughts on “Do Israeli Organic Standards Need Fixing?”

  1. Michael says:

    Jared: “each of us should take advantage of the fact that we live in such a small country, and get to know our food!”

    – Agreed!

    Organic certifiers in Israel and across the world work hard to make sure the standards are upheld. I have to say, I’m still left somewhat in the dark by the original Ha’aretz article – hopefully some light will be shed on it in due course. Watch this space for updates.

  2. Jared says:

    Thank you, Michael, for shedding a little light on this oft ignored subject. With all the global frenzy for “going green,” we forget our individual responsibilities as consumers. At the end of the day, the only real solution – which I try to implement as often as possible – is simply to visit the source of your food (which in turn assures that you buy local!), inspect the growing environment and certification, have a conversation with the producer, etc., and make a judgment call. It’s not fool proof, but it’s certainly educational, and can definitely bring a bit more “peace of mind.” With all due respect to the organic authorities in Israel and the recent efforts of our political representatives, each of us should take advantage of the fact that we live in such a small country, and get to know our food!

  3. This explains so much about the “organic” eggs I used to buy…they tasted terrible and I was forced to switch to regular eggs. If anything can be labeled organic, then the label itself is meaningless.

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