Japan still has a very large number of small farmers. These can’t afford to carry the costs of a large, official organic certification scheme, as can be done in Europe where there are large farms. And with their being small farms, they are easily influenced “environmentally” by all the neighbouring farms. Many farms, particularly rice farms, share the same irrigation streams or canals. Even though you don’t use chemicals, your neighbour upstream might.
Still, with the increasing demand in Japan for organic food, Yuuki is marketed as meaning organic, because traditional farming methods didn’t use any chemicals — there weren’t any. Many farmers will just use the work “Yuuki” instead, and try to communicate to consumers that Yuuki standards are just as high, if not higher, than organic.
The problem is, though, that you can call yourself “Yuuki” without having someone verify it. There is now a Yuuki centre in Japan, called the “Nihon Yuuki Nougyou Kenkyuukai” (Japan Organic Farming Research Centre) which will certify agricultural products as Yuuki so that they can bear the official Yuuki stamp. In awarding the stamp, both how long the farm has been organic (minimum of 3 years) and whether the surrounding farms are as well is looked at.
Actual certified organic Japanese produce will have a “JAS Organic” label on it (though ironically most comes completely wrapped in plastic packaging.) To get JAS organic, none of the farms that the water flows through, for instance, can have used any chemicals for at least 3 years.
Other “organic” related terms are:
- Gennouyaku: reduced chemicals were used during production;
- Munouyaku: no agricultural chemicals (synthetic fertilizers or pesticides) were used on the farmer’s land. This is not the same as organic, however, because chemicals might have been used on adjoining farms. It just means that that particular farmer didn’t use any himself;
- Ohganikku: organic;
- Yuuki-Nosanbutu-Kako-Shokuhin: processed foods made from yuuki agricultural products;
- Yuuki saibai: organic produce, grown without chemical fertilizers.