The National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA), the nation’s original organic certification organisation, today announced Ms Jan Denham would be stepping down after seven years as Chair of the Board.  She will continue to serve as a board member and Chair of NASAA Certified Organic.

Glenn Schaube has been appointed as incoming Chair effective immediately with Mr Phil Rowe as Deputy Chair.

Jan and Glenn

Ms Denham, a successful organic citrus producer from western NSW who joined NASAA in 1992 having gained certification for her farm in 1989, has served twice as Chair of the Board.  She said she was proud of her contribution to NASAA and the development of the booming organics industry.

“The organic farming and certification landscape, in Australia and internationally, has changed so much since the early 1990s,” Ms Denham said. “In the early years we had to fight extremely hard for organics, and sustainable farming generally, to be seen as a legitimate system. 

“Now you can walk into any supermarket and find organic products across all major commodities on nearly every shelf.

“It has been an absolute privilege to lead NASAA and so rewarding to see the industry go from strength to strength,” she said. “I will still be working closely on the certification side but it’s time for change.”

Mr Schaube joined the NASAA Board in 2013 and has made a significant contribution with expertise in corporate communications, policy and stakeholder engagement underpinned by a strong background in working with associations and agribusiness.

He is the founder and director of GRS Communications, a boutique public relations and marketing communications agency operating from Melbourne since 2002. He has 30 years’ experience working with commercial and not-for-profit organisations at local, state, federal and international levels. Mr Schaube also served on the Executive Committee for the Organic Retailers and Growers Association Australia prior to its merge with NASAA.

In accepting the appointment, Mr Schaube paid tribute to outgoing Chair, Ms Denham.

“There is no greater champion for the organics in this country,” he said. “Jan has been a pathfinder from the beginning: helping to open valuable new markets in Europe and Asia and ensuring organics earned a seat at the broader agricultural sector table.

Mr Schaube said there were many challenges and opportunities as natural demand for certified organics takes up a larger slice of the food market, alongside growing recognition as a legitimate and viable food production system that can help to feed the world.

“Whether it’s creating a trusted organic quality assurance program and standard that is recognised internationally, encouraging new operators to enter the market or opening new arrangements for trade with countries such as China, NASAA has always played a vital role in the organic sector,” he said.

“Supported by an experienced board and staff, combined with the tenacity and creativity of our certified operators, I believe NASAA will continue to deliver a range of valuable services that will ensure organics can thrive.

“With many conventional growers either adopting organic certification or just employing more environmentally sustainable practices such as improved soil management, and establishing wildlife corridors, we have every reason to feel optimistic about the future of organic certification, and more broadly, sustainable food production,” Mr Schaube said.

“I look forward to making a more substantial contribution to NASAA as we navigate a new era for Australian organics,” he said.

GMO’s of any kind and organics simply don’t mix

Australia’s original organic certification organisation, the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA), has welcomed the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)’s position against genetically modified organisms (GMO) created through new genetic engineering techniques such as CRISPR.

At its recent general assembly, IFOAM reaffirmed the global sector’s commitment to consumers to effectively exclude GMOs from its production systems and urge policy-makers to regulate the use of GMOs obtained by recent techniques.

“The Australian standard is very clear from our perspective,” said Mark Anderson, General Manager, NASAA following the announcement. “GMO’s of any kind and organics simply don’t mix.

“It would be a slippery slope should the door ever open to genome editing within our current regulatory framework. The integrity of our iconic national brand certification would risk irreversible damage,” he said.

“Organic farming is centred squarely on consumer trust and, at NASAA, we take that very seriously. There is a real risk of eroding the public’s faith in the purity of Australian organic produce as a result of changes to regulations or inconsistent standards.”

The Australian Government’s Gene Technology Regulator is undertaking a technical review of the Gene Technology Regulations 2001 (the Technical Review) to provide clarity about whether organisms developed using a range of new technologies are subject to regulation as genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and ensure that new technologies are regulated in a manner commensurate with the risks they pose.

“Australia has earned an enviable reputation for maintaining strict organic certification for over three decades,” said Mr Anderson. “We stand beside fellow organic movement member groups across the world in speaking out against new genetic engineering techniques and the adverse impact they could have on our own organic farming sector without appropriate regulation.”