November 1, 2012
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) took over regulation of the organic sector in 2009, but the regulation lacks a meaningful testing clause of these products.
The CFIA lacks any meaningful definition of organic beyond what has been certified.
Canada’s lax organic testing standards make us susceptible to foreign importers.
Canada needs a science-based testing and certification system.
Canada’s Organic Nightmare
The organic foods industry needs objective, science-based testing
Mischa Popoff and Patrick Moore
A sustained assault is being levelled against agriculture across North America. It comes generally from environmentalists but more specifically from the organic industry, which survives, for the most part, by levelling unfounded attacks against any form of food that is not organic.
Through all the court cases against biotechnology and the public relations campaigns against pesticide and fertilizer use—to say nothing of the absurd allegations that most of the food we eat is unsafe, even toxic—the organic activist crowd harboured a dirty little secret: Organic crops and livestock are not tested in Canada before they are certified, thus making organic certification essentially meaningless.
An inspection of an organic farm or processing facility consists mainly of a review of the applicant’s records, followed by a brief tour, during which an inspector might notice minor, technical infractions but is unlikely to find evidence of fraud or gross negligence. Since the inspected party knows well in advance when the inspector will be dropping by, there is no such thing as a surprise visit.
There is talk in the United States of introducing routine, across-the-board, unannounced testing of organic crops, livestock and stored product. The United States’ federal organic standards allow for this, and so, in a healthy example of subsidiarity,1 some states voluntarily carry out mandatory, scientific organic field testing at the local level in their application of U.S. federal organic standards.2
However, in Canada there is no such testing anywhere, just the exhaustive review of paperwork, because our federal organic standard does not even allow for the possibility of science-based organic field testing.3 It was left out of our federal organic standard. This is ironic considering that the CFIA, a world-renowned, science-based regulatory agency, is currently undergoing a major overhaul in order to “to bring consistency to food inspection in Canada with mandatory preventive controls for all foods across the supply chain.”4 Again, it must be stressed, this evidently means all foods, except for organic. Defenders of the status quo routinely claim that testing organic farms would be expensive, but as we will show, all evidence points to the contrary: It will in fact cost less than a tenth of the cost of running the current organic certification system!5
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. True rank-and-file organic farmers meanwhile have no affinity whatsoever for the class of self-appointed, urban political activists who claim to represent them. Canadian organic farmers, like their U.S. counterparts, support field testing, as they know better than anyone that they have nothing to hide, and they know first-hand the many benefits that science and technology have to offer to the field of agriculture, even organic agriculture.
Considering that Canada’s food system is fairly safe and is one of the most efficient in the world, and considering that only clean air and water are more important than food to the smooth functioning of an economy, it is probably a good idea for Canadians to take up the cause of defending our food system against assaults by a branch of the globalist environmental movement. Their attacks really do not hold up, not even to casual scrutiny.
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 the author of the critically-acclaimed book, Is it Organic?
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