Regulatory framework and Policies for Organic Agriculture in China (Adapted From IFOAM, Building Sustainable Organic Sectors)
NIES, and later OFDC, developed the first and most comprehensive ‘Standard for Certification of Organic Products’, in 2001. It was based on the IFOAM Basic Standards, EU Regulation 2092/91, and the standards of Organic Crop Improvement Association. Before the Chinese National Organic Standard was issued in 2005 there was a period when several standards were in effect in China: the OFDC Standard and standards of foreign certification bodies, some government departments, local standard bureaus, and science institutes. The confusion caused the organic sector to appeal for a unified organic standard.
In 2002 the Certification and Accreditation Administration of China (CNCA) was authorized by the State Council to be responsible for the administration of organic certification and accreditation. CNCA organized the establishment of the Chinese National Organic Products Standard (CNOPS), which was officially issued and implemented in 2005. The Standard is based on the IFOAM Basic Standard, is compatible with Codex Alimentarius, the EU Regulation 2092/91, NOP, and JAS, and introduces requirements based on the ISO 90012000 Quality Management System. The main role of the national standard and regulations is now to regulate and supervise the organic sector, including certification, consultation, and operational practices.
Because it complies with so many foreign standards, the Chinese Standard is among the most stringent in the world. The China National Accreditation Board (CNAB) has started to evaluate and accredit all institutions involved in organic certification in China. CNCA approved 29 control bodies by 2006. Most foreign CBs are starting different cooperation methods with Chinese partners so as to get approval from CNCA.
There are different opinions on the effects of the stringency of the standard. Some people propose to set up two levels of the standard, a lower level suitable for domestic conditions, and a higher level equivalent to the standards of the main import countries. The current standard may put some limitations on some operators, but also may push some operators to improve their organic operations.
Chinese certification practices are mainly third-party certification. There are a few examples of group certification, but no participatory guarantee systems.
Since 2005, all products sold in the Chinese market as organic/organic-in-conversion must be certified, and the national organic logo and the logo/name of the control body must be indicated on the product. Imported organic products must meet the CNOPS and carry the label as well.
Organic agriculture policy
Most Chinese agricultural policies can be defined as WTO ‘green box’, with support e.g. for food security and environmental protection. Through the Chinese ‘yellow box’ the government gives subsidies to almost the entire process of agricultural production, including subsidies for chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and seeds. These subsidies make farmers choose to use these inputs without hesitation, causing a great deal of waste and pollution of natural resources.
Until 2004, the SEPA was the primary government proponent of organic agriculture. However, local and provincial governments also recognized the economic and ecological benefits of organic food early in its development and created several successful export-oriented enterprises. State involvement in organic agriculture extended not only to certification, but also to activities to push marketing and production.
In June 2004, 11 Ministries from the central government of China, including the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Finance, and the State Environment Protection Administration, among others, jointly issued a document called ‘Recommendation to Promote Organic Food Industry Development’. This is considered the first central government document to bring forward supporting policies to the organic sector. In 2005 and 2006, the Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Finance stipulated the detailed rules for subsidies to agriculture products, including organic foods.
Compared with developed countries, Chinese support policies for organic farming are still in the early stage, and further development of support policies is eagerly expected.(Authors: Ms. Weihua Xie, Mr. Wenpeng You, Mr. Dong Lu and Mr. Xingji Xiao)
Further Reading on China's Organic Sector development:
Case Studies of Organic Sector Development
Early Development of Organic Farming Practices
Agricultural Conditions for Organic in China
Organization and Lessons Learned(Adapted From IFOAM, Building Sustainable Organic Sectors)
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