x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Capital drafts laws to protect integrity of organic foods

Industry will be certified and regulated by end of next year, says expert.

DUBAI // All organic food sold could soon be regulated and certified under laws being discussed by federal food authorities.

The law would follow the European Union's standards for organic food control, certification and labelling, which have been in place for 15 years.

"Standards across the world are very defined but there is no such thing here in the UAE," said Thomas Cierpka, the deputy director of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (Ifoam).

"There needs to be a law whereby people can bring companies to court which claim [to be] organic but are not. So the Government must make clear the quality of the product, which means a regulation to protect organic food."

Mr Cierpka was speaking in Dubai yesterday at the second Meveg Congress, part of the Middle East Natural and Organic Product Expo 2011. The exhibition, which ends today, is the region's only event for organic and natural products.

"Producers must make an informed choice," said Mr Cierpka. "It's important for the consumer to trust that it's really organic."

Abu Dhabi is in the process of implementing the system.

The Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA) will not have to assess organic imports as it can be done by Ifoam.

"We always look to see what can be done for our consumers to try and create the right environment and product to help gain their trust," said Mohamed Al Reyaysa, the communications director of the ADFCA.

"We look forward to this practice and we believe that it will help as there is good potential in different farms across Abu Dhabi to turn organic."

Mr Cierpka said the ADFCA is to present a draft bill to the Ministry of Environment and Water.

For Sandhya Prakash, the founder of Meveg, a vegetarian support group in Dubai, the system cannot come soon enough.

"If it's organic, we need rules and regulations for checking its traceability," Mr Prakash said. "Farmers also need to be taught how to use natural fertiliser. That way we don't have to reinvent the whole wheel."

Mr Cierpka hopes a law will be in place before the end of next year, and is already looking at the next step, a set of regional standards.

He will meet with interested parties today to see "if there is a need to develop a regional standard for the Middle East to [make] direct trading easier between different countries, which is also a good idea".

cmalek@thenational.ae