November 1, 2012
Media Release - Canada’s Organic Certification System is an Emperor with No Clothes
Lacks field testing, unannounced inspections or meaningful definitions
Winnipeg, 1 November 2012: The Frontier Centre for Public Policy released today a policy study examining the system for testing organic products – or the lack thereof – in Canada. Authors Mischa Popoff and Patrick Moore drop the bomb on organic certification in Canada by revealing that organic crops are not systematically tested by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), which makes organic certification close to meaningless. The paper is titled Canada’s Organic Nightmare.
Mischa Popoff is an author and former Advanced Organic Farm and Process Canadian Inspector. Patrick Moore is a renowned ecologist and author best known for co-founding Green Peace, the world’s largest environmentalist organization.
The authors show the circularity in a process that claims to establish standards for organic foods. Since the Canadian organic standard has no testing clause, the CFIA has essentially defined an organic product as any product that has been certified thus, emptying the concept of any real meaning. No mention is made of safety, purity, nutrition, or sustainability.
This has important implications for Canadian consumers and the country’s $2 billion organic food industry. It is also important because the organic industry often points fingers at conventional food for its supposed “impurity” and makes claims that conventional food products that are not being systematically tested.
The report is not an attack on organic farmers or the many dedicated men and women who work in the industry. Rather, the report hones in on the process of certifying foods as organic: “True rank-and-file organic farmers […] have no affinity whatsoever for the class of self-appointed, urban political activists who claim to represent them.” “It comes as no surprise that with more than $2-billion per annum at stake, the Canadian organic lobby is dead set against organic field testing and will go to any lengths to discredit anyone who promotes the application of the scientific method to the organic industry,” said the authors.
The United States’ federal organic standards allow for routine, unannounced testing of organic crops, livestock, and stored product. Some states voluntarily carry out mandatory, scientific organic field testing at the local level. But, in Canada, the only requirement is an exhaustive review of paperwork through a CFIA-accredited organic certifier, some of which are even off shore.
Canada’s lax testing standards are making this country susceptible to foreign organic importers, and risk of undermining Canada’s food producers.
The authors also show how a science-based system would cost less than a tenth of the cost of running the current organic certification system, and propose a more decentralized means of making testing and certification meaningful and effective.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Mischa Popoff is research associate at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. He earned a B.A. from the University of Saskatchewan where he specialized in the history of nitrogen for fertilizer and warfare. He then worked as an Advanced Organic Farm and Process Inspector, inspecting over 500 organic farms and processing facilities on both sides of the American-Canadian border. He now works as a political columnist and radio host. He is the author of the critically acclaimed book, Is it Organic?
Dr. Patrick Moore has been a leader in the international environmental field for nearly 40 years. He is a co-founder of Greenpeace and served for nine years as President of Greenpeace Canada and seven years as a Director of Greenpeace International. He was a driving force shaping policy and direction while Greenpeace became the world's largest environmental activist organization. Moore currently serves as Chair and Chief Scientist of Greenspirit Strategies, a consultancy focusing on environmental policy and communications in forestry, agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture, mining, biodiversity, energy and climate change.
The study can be downloaded from the following link:
Click here for the full study.
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The Frontier Centre for Public Policy
is an independent public policy think tank whose mission is "to broaden the debate on our future through public policy research and education and to explore positive changes within our public institutions that support economic growth and opportunity."