Organic food certification in South Africa: A private sector mechanism in need of state regulation?
Organic production targets the development of a sustainable cultivation system and a variety of high-quality products with an emphasis on environmental protection and high standards of animal protection. In South Africa the organic sector pioneered private practices and systems in small informal groups to guide the public and private sectors on environmental and sustainability issues. A private certification system for organic products is applicable in the country, consisting of network certification and third-party certification in collaboration with foreign and locally-based certification organisations. Local producers also use self-declaratory vendor claims associated with organic labels. A State auditor mechanism is nonetheless applicable with respect to the use of the term "free range" on labels for meat products. South African National Standards (SANS 1369) on Organic Agricultural Production and Processing (OAPP) have been drafted by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) but the final version has not yet been made public. There is currently no specific legislation on organic products in the country, while draft regulations on the control and sale of organic products are yet to be promulgated. This paper looks into organic food regulation in South Africa and examines how far this private sector mechanism for organic food certification is in need of State regulation.
Keywords: Organic food production; third-party certification, participatory guarantee system; network certification; free range; self-declaratory vendor claims; state regulation.