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Soil Association revises organic standards

14th Nov 2018 / By Alistair Driver

The Soil Association has revised its organic standards, including a number relating to pig production.

This follows a major review of the standards, with input from the public, farmers, expert advisers and the food industry. The association said the new standards would be easier for both licensees and the public to use and understand

It said it continued to have the highest UK organic standards, which will be strengthened even further in some areas, such as animal welfare and that the updated standards would make it more straightforward for farmers to become certified by the Soil Association. For example, unnecessary duplication has been removed where requirements are covered adequately by other legislation.

The updated standards are now available to preview and will come into effect from Spring 2019. They can be previewed online in a new user-friendly format.

Dr Benjamin Dent, chair of the Soil Association Standards Board, said: “This has been an extremely thorough, evidence-based review.  Our expert committees and consultations have ensured the new standards are practical for our licensees and encourage them to innovate, and that where we are more demanding than the regulations, that this is justified in terms of enhanced impacts on animal welfare and the environment.”

Key changes affecting pigs include:

Strengthened approach to antibiotics with a ban on the use of colistin: Soil Association standards will continue to ban the preventative use of antibiotics and any use of antibiotics of critical importance for human and animal health where the use of other treatment would be effective.

Removal of unnecessary barriers and bureaucracy for veterinary medicines: Soil Association’s previous higher standard required organic farmers to wait for three times the recommended withdrawal period for veterinary medication to ensure that organic animal products are not contaminated with medicinal residues. However, extensive research shows that the methods for determining standard withdrawal periods for veterinary medication have improved considerably in recent years. The updated standards will therefore now ask organic farmers to wait for twice the required withdrawal period, in line with the EU organic regulation, as the Soil Association considers this to be appropriately robust.

Recorded CCTV in abattoirs: Animal welfare is at the heart of organic. The Soil Association will explicitly require CCTV in all licensed abattoirs in places where CCTV is not already a legislative requirement, and the updated standards have clarified permitted methods of emergency killing.

Less repetition, easier to follow: The documents have been slimmed down to avoid repetition.

Freedom to innovate: The new standards focus on the goal rather than prescribing how producers get there.