There are great expectations from the consumers' perspective in respect of the quality of organic products. For decades, organic products have been generally known as "unsprayed and therefore non-poisonous". To an increasing degree, consumers are opting for organic products specifically on account of their own health.
Although the organic sector does not apply chemical synthetic pesticides because these are forbidden in organic agriculture, there can never be a guarantee that they are 100% non-poisonous. Organic and traditional agriculture usually take place on adjoining farms as a result of which the risk of contamination can never be fully excluded.
The EU Regulation for organic agriculture and food is rather unique, because it is largely process-oriented. This means that pesticides are forbidden. If residues are found that exceed the strict baby-food standard, their cause must be investigated. If the grower is not to blame and the transport, storage and processing chains have not made careless mistakes, the product may be marketed as being organic. Private parties may decide to adopt stricter measures to protect the image of their brand.
Residue monitoring programmes show that over 80% of organic products are completely residue-free, approximately 15% contain small traces below the strict baby-food requirement level (<0.01 mg/kg) and 4% contain traces that exceed the baby food standard. This last category will be subjected to testing and possible rejection as organic, depending on the outcome of the tests.
Organic is still equal to unsprayed, but the time when organic was synonymous with 100% non-poisonous is gone. With advancing detection techniques determining whether small quantities of residues are, in fact, present is becoming increasingly accurate. It is because of this that an increasing group of Dutch trading and processing companies, jointly in the VBP, wish to guarantee the consumer's expectation of "unsprayed and therefore non-poisonous" as much as possible. In order to achieve this, they have collaborated intensively for the past two years to establish the BIOKAP residue monitoring system. By inspecting systematically for any possible residues in organic raw materials and carrying out tests to discover the causes of contamination, knowledge is acquired on how possible contamination can be avoided in the future.
Furthermore, the VBP aims to enhance the image of the Dutch organic trade in and outside the Netherlands with this project. The importance of quality assurance is much discussed all over the world. The Dutch organic trading and processing companies participating in BIOKAP have an even greater sense of responsibility to protect the quality of their organic products.
An important aim of this project is to share the available knowledge and prevent calamities. This will strengthen the consumer's faith in the quality of organic products and provide the basis for achieving the Dutch government's growth objectives in the Netherlands and in export in the years to come.
VBP and Bionext, the chain organisation on organic, are an advocate of maintaining the process-oriented approach, because organic agriculture and organic food should not be held responsible for contamination that is caused by others (i.e. traditional agriculture and food). IFOAM EU, the umbrella organisation for the organic sector in the EU, is also in favour of maintaining the process-oriented approach. Both Bionext and VBP are taking part in the IFOAM EU; Bionext as board member, VBP as participant of the Sector Group Organic Processing (SGOP), together with the processing and trading associations Aoel, BNN, Synabio, Organic Finland, Soil association and Bioforum Vlaanderen.
In 2013 a legal framework, part of the terms of delivery, will be created for dealing with residues in organic products. There is no European legislation on the subject as yet, which leads to a great deal of uncertainty for companies that – usually through no fault of their own – are confronted with contamination.
In the near future it will become possible for foreign organic companies to join BIOKAP, for instance in cooperation with our organic associations like Aoel, BNN and Synabio.