Establish clear rules for buffer zones between organic and conventional fields, in order to reduce pesticide residues in organic food and increase consumers’ trust.
NPOP clearly defines and requires a buffer zone (a clearly defined and identifiable boundary area bordering the organic production) or other barriers between the organic and conventional fields under situations of part conversions, parallel productions.
National Organic Program (NOP) Final Rule (USDA) do not require compulsory buffer zones to prevent pesticide drift from conventional neighbour fields.
Organic market stakeholders, however, are concerned about a number of cases, where pesticide residues are found in organic foodstuff in relevant concentrations, although generally far below the maximum residue level (MRL).
Frequently, these pollutants originate from drift. In many cases, they have been detected in products the spraying equipment is poor and integrated pest management (IPM) standards are not always properly applied.
In order to reduce these problems in the future, we find it necessary to adopt the buffer zone approach, whenever it is possible. Consumers expect organic products to have no or very low residue levels, and sustainable growth of the organic market is possible only if these expectations are not frustrated. Thus, producers must be responsible for the organic integrity of their product in a wider sense, beyond their own non-application of prohibited substances: precautionary measures to assure that the own production is done without any use of non authorized materials must be taken also with regard to all non intentional “inputs” from neighbouring fields. In addition, buffer zones can and should be used to increase agro ecosystem biodiversity, especially through hedgerows or diverse flowering plants.
Normative framework :
To ensure a clear separation between organic and conventional production, a buffer zone or a natural barrier should be maintained. The certification programme shall ensure that the requirements are met.
8.6.2 Provisions for parallel production
If a farm is engaged in parallel production, the certification programme shall ensure, in addition to the requirements for part conversion, the following:-buffer zones are maintained for demarcation.
§ 205.2: Buffer zone: An area located between a certified production operation or portion of a production operation and an adjacent land area that is not maintained under organic management. A buffer zone must be sufficient in size or other features (e.g., windbreaks or a diversion ditch) to prevent the possibility of unintended contact by prohibited substances applied to adjacent land areas with an area that is part of a certified operation.
§ 205.202: Any field or farm parcel from which harvested crops are intended to be sold, labelled, or represented as “100 percent organic,” “organic,” or “made with organic (specified ingredients)” must:
(c) Have distinct, defined boundaries and buffer zones such as runoff diversions to prevent the unintended application of a prohibited substance to the crop or contact with a prohibited substance applied to adjoining land that is not under organic management.
5.1.4 When unintended contact with substances prohibited by par. 1.4.1 is possible, distinct buffer zones or other features sufficient to reasonably prevent contamination are required.
a. Buffer zones shall be at least 8 m wide.
b. Permanent hedgerows or plant windbreaks, artificial windbreaks, permanent roads or other adequate physical barriers may be used instead of buffer zones.
5.1.5 Crops grown in buffer zones shall be considered non-organically grown products whether they are used on the farm or not.
Terms, clarifications, abbreviations :
Pesticides: all plant protection products not listed in NPOP, the National List (NOP) and the CAN/CGSB-32.311, Organic Production Systems — Permitted Substances Lists.
In which situations buffer zones are required:
- Where pesticides are sprayed on neighbour fields. Drift risk depends on spraying frequency, type and concentration of pesticides, spraying equipment, wind direction, distance, and vegetation.
- On slopes, when significant amounts of fertilisers or pesticides can be introduced to the organic field through surface runoff.
In other situations, buffer zones are usually not necessary. To make it clear: buffer zones need not to be established just because the neighbour field is not certified, or because conventional fertilisers are used on the neighbour field, in case that there is no real risk of pollution.
What can be used as a buffer zone (in order of preference):
- Hedgerows (if possible with diverse native shrubs and trees)
- Flower stripes (if possible with diverse species that flourish during a long period)
- Spontaneous vegetation or non-food crops, roads or other non-cultivated areas
- Food crops other than certified (e.g. cassava on the edge of organic bananas)
- Certified food crops destined for conventional market. In this case, separate conventional harvest and sale must be adequately documented.
In case of slopes with risk of runoff of pesticide or fertiliser residues (see 5.1), runoff diversions (ditches) have to be established.
Width of buffer zones, according to different drift risks:
|Type and management of
conventional neighbour field
|Minimum width of buffer zone with … vegetation|
|low growing*||high growing*|
|Without external input or only fertiliser use||-||-|
|Field or vegetable crop with manual knapsack sprayer.||1 – 2 m**||Hedgerow or 3 rows of high growing annual plants (sunflower, maize) – must exist before spraying season|
|Field or vegetable crops with tractor pulled field crop sprayer in good technical shape and adequately managed.||2 – 4 m||Hedgerow or 6 rows of high growing annual plants (sunflower, maize) – must be established before spraying season|
|Field or vegetable crop with poor equipment or poor handling for spraying||4 – 8 m||Hedgerow or 6 rows of high growing annual plants (sunflower, maize) – must be established before spraying season|
|Fruit orchards with high pressure motor sprayer||10 – 20 m||2 m wide, 2 m high dense hedgerow|
|Aerial spraying||30 – 100 m||At least 5 m high hedgerow plus 20 m wide space. Or 15 m high tress complemented by lower bushes, to form a high and dense hedgerow, at least 3 m wide.|
* low and high growing vegetation: less or more than 80 cm high, respectively
** range according to predominating wind direction and spraying intensity.
The farmer establishes drift risk and designs necessary buffer zones. The inspector checks, whether risk assessment and buffer zones are adequate.
As an alternative (but also additionally) to buffer zones, organic producers can sign non-spraying agreements with their conventional neighbours. In this case, the neighbours must not spray the adjacent stripe to the organic field, according to the width of buffer zones established above. The organic farmer is responsible for supervising the fulfilment of the agreement. Written agreement and supervision protocols must be available during inspections.
In regions with extremely scattered smallholder field property, implementation of buffer stripes may not be possible. In these cases, agreements with neighbours have to be much more detailed and stricter, and pesticide residue testing has to be intensified.
Access to this policy :
- This policy is available to all interested public
- It must be handed out to all ADITI certification and inspection personnel
- It must be submitted to all operators interested in organic crop certification