The recent media reports claim that Centre for Science and Enviroment (CSE), Delhi-based non-profit entity, has shown its disapprobation against Food Safety and Standards Authority of India’s (FSSAI) move to make certification of organic food sold in India mandatory. While expressing its concern on the proposal, CSE stated that such will certainly going to handover the power to certification industry and will also hamper the growth of organic farming movement of the country.
On March 31, 2017, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had issued a notice asking for comments on a proposed regulation titled “Draft Food Safety and Standards (Organic Foods) Regulations, 2017” (Draft Regulations). The regulation seeks to make certification mandatory for any food that claims to be “organic” in the domestic market.
Presently, there is no mandate which makes the certification of organic food a compulsion in India. But there are two certification processes that are freely followed by the companies that are enrolled in the organic food business. The first system, which is governed by the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, is mandatory for exports. It is called the National Programme for Organic Production and is also referred to as ‘Third Party Certification’. The second system, governed by the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, is called the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) and is meant only for the domestic market. The Third Party Certification system is applicable to individual farmers or farmer groups, while the PGS is applicable only to farmer groups and works around the collective responsibility of the group.
Amit Khurana, Senior Programme Manager, Food Safety and Toxins Unit, CSE says, “We understand that most PGS farmers are not undertaking any kind of processing and because they cannot not sell their produce for processing outside the group / federation, they are dealing only in fresh produce.” The sale of fresh organic food in India is already facing many challenges because of a lack of market linkages. As a result, farmers do not get the premium price they deserve for organic food and they are suffering, he adds.
Khurana said that the draft regulations could spell a lot of trouble if they became law, “If that happens, it will further eliminate any sale of PGS produce for processing outside the group and PGS farmers will be left with very limited options.”