(NaturalNews) Known for having one of the most outstanding economies in the world, with consistent high growth, low interest rates and low inflation, Australia is no stranger to the booming organic food market. In fact, the nation down under is home to the largest number of certified organically farmed hectares in the world, with 22.69 million hectares cultivated in Australia’s Northern Territory.
Similar to the healthy food movement in the U.S., Australians have grown increasingly more interested in healthy lifestyles that include food free of pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones and genetically modified (GM) ingredients. Although the organic food market only accounts for about 1.25 percent of total food sales, Australia’s organic sales are increasing at an astounding rate, averaging a growth of over 15 percent each year, according to the 2014 Australian Organic Market Report.
“Certified organic is cruelty free, pasture fed, socially responsible, free range, sustainably fished, biodiversity friendly and grown and processed without synthetic pesticides and herbicides, genetic modification, antibiotics and artificial hormones,” according to the report, which values the country’s organic market at an estimated $1.72 billion (1.39 billion USD)!
Organic industry one of the fastest growing industries in Australia
While organic food sales continue to soar, conventionally grown, pesticide-containing food and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have only experienced a slight increase, growing a mere 3.5 percent from 2012-2014, highlighting a weakening market.
“Perhaps consumers are also starting to join up some of the dots, realising that organic farming also provides positive envivvronmental [sic] benefits, can help sequester carbon in the soil — thus potentially mitigating climate change — and has the highest levels of animal welfare,” reports Echo.Net.au.
Not only is Australia consuming a significant amount of organic food, but they’re exporting it as well. Known for its “premium quality conventional produce,” Australia’s highly regarded reputation helped pave the way for their nationally enforced organic export standards, in place since the 1990s and giving the country “an edge for organic trade globally.”
Australia’s organic exports DOUBLED between 2012 and 2014
“Despite the rapid growth of organic farming in North America and Europe, production has not increased fast enough to keep up with demand,” making these regions a lucrative source of revenue for Australia’s organic exports.
The top five export countries/regions for 2014 are as follows:
1. North America
4. Hong Kong
The top five exported products for 2014 in ascending order are:
2. Processed foods
4. Wine and beverages
5. Fruit and Vegetables
Australia’s organic export market is currently valued at $340 million (275.3 million USD), increasing from $102 million in 2012. Organic commodities including beef, dairy, baby formula and unprocessed grains in particular have experienced tremendous growth between 2012 and 2014, with some suppliers reporting triple-digit profits in export sales!
The nation’s close neighbor, New Zealand, which also holds a reputation for having high organic standards, has contributed to the country’s shortfalls in terms of domestic production, exporting processed organic products to Australia.
Australia stays tough on organic standards, rejecting bid to allow GM ingredients in organic food
Regulated by Food Standards Australia New Zealand, “GM foods, ingredients, additives, or processing aids that contain novel DNA or protein” require a GM label. Under the law, novel DNA or protein is defined as DNA or a protein that’s been created or altered using genetic engineering technology and differs in chemical sequence from DNA or protein present in counterpart food.
Attempting to loosen the nation’s organic standards, the West Australian Department of Agriculture and Food recently requested to allow a 0.9 percent GM tolerance level, according to PerthNow.com. However, Australia’s zero tolerance remains intact following the council’s rejection of the bid in early December.