Australia Sustainable Food, Environment, & Social Systems 2017

Blog site for the 2017 MSU study abroad program.

24-Kate W.

My research while in country revolved around the organic industry and organic certification policy. I looked for the differences and similarities between the US and Australia in policy and consumer behavior. I wanted to know why farmers and consumers chose to buy and produce organic and why they would not.

I found that consumer approach to organic foods is similar in both countries. The organic industry is new and exciting industry with a solid consumer base, but still widely miss understood. People are willing to pay a premium for ‘certified organic’ products but overestimate the benefits of the products. Confusing and misguided regulations have allowed the organic industry to ‘green-wash’ their products and mislead consumer in order to hike up prices. The organic market is more motivated by increased profits than true sustainability.

Consumer misunderstandings posed a lot of issues for some of the farms we toured throughout Australia. Robert Watkins of Natural Evolution Foods found that the organic certification requirements did not fit the needs of his banana plants and did not encourage sustainable practices. Consumers, however, are often skeptical of his health products simply because they are not certified organic. Kenneth and Sonia of Woolumbi Farms are also not certified organic, yet under Australian law are still able to label their food organic with a certified label. They found that it was not best for their land and the process was far too expensive for them to become certified, but they are still able to market their foods as organic, appealing to the growing market.


An example of a certified organic logo at Mallyons on the Murray organic fruit and vegetable farm in South Australia


Produce at the Queen Victoria Markets in Melbourne


Banana trees at Robert Watkins Farm in Queensland, Australia



About Greenwashing (n.d.). In Greenwashing Index; Help Keep Advertising Honest . Retrieved July 4, 2017.

Builder, Nick. Personal Communication. May 25th, 2017.

Boothroyd, A. (2013, July 15). Organic certification – what is the cost of clean production?. In Food & Beverage Industry News. Retrieved July 15, 2017.

Do, C. (2015, June). Organic Food Labeling in Australia: A murky environment.

Gunn, A. (n.d.). Organic Labelling Legal Requirements . In Legal Vision . Retrieved July 4, 2017.

Lee, J., Shimizu, M., Kniffin, K., & Wansink, B. (2013, February). You taste what you see: Do organic labels bias taste perceptions? Food Quality and Preference29.

McEnvoy, M. (2012, March 28). What the USDA Organic Label Means. Western Farm Press.

Organic Claims (n.d.). In Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Retrieved July 4, 2017.

Hi, my name is Kate and I’m from West Bloomfield Michigan. I am currently studying Social Relations and Policy and I have a minor in Science Technology and Environmental Public Policy. I have always really loved the outdoors and just being outside. In the future, I hope to work in environmental or animal rights advocacy. I want to visit Australia because I wanted to see how another country approaches environmental policy and feeding a growing population with limited space.

For the project I’d like to look into the difference between the ways Australia and the United States use policy to encourage sustainable practices. I’m interested in seeing a different approach to Environmental policy. I am particularly interested in the different rules around livestock, but also other farming regulations, emissions, or endangered species laws.

Have any government policies influenced how you produce your product?

When choosing a pesticide, growth hormone, or antibiotics, were your options and how much you were allowed to use restricted in any way?

In the case of livestock, what percent of the conditions the animals live in government regulation and what percent is the companies own decision?


Hastreiter, Marie T. “Animal Welfare Standards and Australia’s Live Exports Industry to Indonesia.” Washington University Global Studies Law Review, vol. 12, no. 181, 2013, pp. 181-203. Accessed 31 Mar. 2017.

White, Steven. “British Colonialism, Australian Nationalism and the Law: Hierarchies of Wild Animal Protection.” Monash University Law Review, vol. 39, no. 2, Sept. 2013, p. 452. Accessed 31 Mar. 2017.

White, Steven. “Regulation of Animal Welfare in Australia and the Emergent Commonwealth.” Federal Law Review, vol. 35, 2007, pp. 347-74. Accessed 31 Mar. 2017.


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