“The only way to guarantee organic quality in bulk or packaged products is to check the registration of the farmer or supplier in the National Register of Organic Farmers published by the Ministry of Agriculture.”
Virginia Germani is head of the Support Center for Organic Production in São Paulo State, which coordinates inspection actions for organic products in the state. Germani is a veterinary from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul.
AgriBrasilis – What is the definition of organic product?
Germani – An organic product is one that is originated in a sustainable production or extraction process that is not harmful to the local ecosystem, respecting the health, environmental, and social standards established in the legislation, optimizing the use of the available natural and socio-economic resources, and respecting the cultural integrity of the rural communities.
For a product to receive the seal of the Brazilian System for the Evaluation of Organic Conformity (SisOrg), it is necessary to fulfill the environmental and labor legislations and to encourage responsible consumption, fair trade, and solidarity. All this is allied to the offer of healthy products, free of contaminants in all phases of the production process. It is worth remembering that there is no tolerance limit for pesticide residues in organic products, therefore, any detection is considered a violation.
AgriBrasilis – What is the purpose of the organic product certification and what are its steps? Is the certification mandatory?
Germani – The certification aims to guarantee the organic quality, giving the customer the certainty that they are acquiring a product with this characteristic.
Organic quality assurance can be regulated by the Ministry of Agriculture through:
- Certification by audit, where the SisOrg seal is granted by a certifier that follows internationally recognized procedures and criteria;
- Participative Assurance System, where the validation is done by a participative conformity assessment entity that takes responsibility for the activities developed;
- Social Control Organizations, that are registered with the Ministry of Agriculture and that qualify the family farmer for direct sales of organic products, without the need for certification.
The registration with the Ministry of Agriculture is mandatory for the recognition of the organic quality of the product.
AgriBrasilis – What are the reasons for the loss of certification?
Germani – The loss of certification may occur for any violation of the conditions established in the regulations. Any of the agencies responsible for organic quality assurance may suspend or cancel the recognition when inconsistencies are identified.
The Ministry of Agriculture, however, may cancel the certification or registration of the farmer, establishment and even the institution, if it finds that the control method is not sufficient or adequate.
AgriBrasilis – The Illusio Operation conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture detected irregular organic products in São Paulo. Are these irregularities in the commercialization recurrent?
Germani – The actions of the Ministry of Agriculture are focused on the weak points identified in this market and seek to act wisely in places where there is a greater chance of irregularities, whether due to product contamination, the inexperience of farmers, or even illegal practices.
It is important to emphasize that there are several levels of irregularity, being the case of family farmers who are not registered but produce in consensus with the rules of organic agriculture, different from the case of farmers who are advertising organic products, but distributing conventional foods or even without knowledge of the origin, which was the situation identified by Operation Illusio. In this case, the farmer or distributor needs to adjust its process and suppliers to meet the legislation.
The legislation foresees penalties that go from a warning to a fine and suspension or cancellation of the registration/certification.
AgriBrasilis – What precautions should merchants take to be sure that they are acquiring organic products?
Germani – The only way to guarantee organic quality in bulk or packaged products is to check the registration of the farmer or supplier in the National Register of Organic Farmers published by the Ministry of Agriculture. The merchant must demand from its suppliers the presentation of the valid organic conformity certificate and check whether the product presented is in this certificate. In the case of packaged products, the use of the SisOrg seal on the labeling is also required.
The farmer who is not certified or registered with the Ministry of Agriculture is not part of the organic quality assurance system and, therefore, is not audited to verify the compliance of their products. In this situation, the product cannot be considered organic.