Knesset panel to consider planting new rules for organic farmers

Organic sector in Israel has skyrocketed recently, with an estimated growth of 30 percent in the past year.

plants agriculture 224.8 (photo credit: Courtesy)
plants agriculture 224.8
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Knesset's Economic Affairs Committee will take on a distinctly greenish shade Monday afternoon as members gather to discuss legislation to regulate organic production in Israel. Three different sets of regulations are on the agenda for the lengthy series of meetings that are slated to discuss sale and production of organic produce, regulations for a monitoring and oversight authority on organic goods, and determining which materials, chemicals and treatments can and cannot be used on produce considered organic. The organic sector in Israel has skyrocketed recently, with an estimated growth of 30 percent in the past year, an increase of about 5% from the average annual growth rate in previous years. As of October 2007, the Israel Bio-Organic Agriculture Association (IBOAA), reported that organic farming in Israel accounted for about 1.5% of total agricultural production and some 10% of fresh exports. The IBOAA represents approximately 400 farmers who cultivate about 7,000 hectares of organically grown crops. Now, however, the Knesset is stepping in to try and regulate the growing industry, where high sales prices and seemingly endless public demand can tempt dishonest marketers to try and take advantage of the organic label. Among the regulations set to be discussed Monday are restrictions requiring marketers of organic goods to use signs clearly marking displays of organic products separate from non-organic products. The proposed rules for new organic farmers are especially stringent. The farmers will be required to first submit paperwork in advance of transferring their fields to organic production and then let the non-organic fields lie fallow before transferring to the new farming methods. Once the fields are planted, the regulations will restrict the types of fertilizers and other substances applied to the plants, and farmers will also have to use separate irrigation systems from those used on non-organic produce. Further, the crops can only be grown in the ground - with the exception of sprouts and mushrooms - rather than through alternative methods such as growing plants in containers. In addition, packaging must be made of specific materials that are less likely to leave chemical substances on the produce.