Thursday, December 26, 2013
Food Activism News
Asleep at the Tractor Wheel
What will the Canads do now that the USDA to test crop "organics"?
Submitted by Mischa Popoff, Kelowna
s you know, Canadian organic activists have been saying for years now that I’m crazy just because I think we should test organic crops and livestock to prove they’re genuinely organic. And as long as the American organic sector relied solely on paperwork, the organic certification in Canada could remain honor based as well.
An ever-growing majority of consumers buy certified-organic food, confident that some sort of objective process ensures the authenticity and safety of food sold bearing this most-lucrative of labelling claims. After all, organic food is “certified” by none other than the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), both of which are highly respected the world over. So it must be genuine, right?
Sadly, anyone familiar with my writings over the last decade knows organic crops and livestock are not tested. In fact, the CFIA and USDA essentially act as tax-funded marketing wings for the organic industry and little more.
But this is about to change down south where Miles V. McEvoy − the Obama Administration’s Deputy Administrator of the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) – will finally make good on his long-standing promise to begin testing organic products. And this, given our close trading ties, puts Canadian authorities in a bit of a bind.
Will the CFIA continue to run a glorified, promotional honour system of record keeping and record checking? Or will they pony up and finally start using science to ensure synthetic nitrates, phosphates, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, antibiotics and growth hormones are being kept at bay in the Canadian organic sector?
Of course, it must be pointed out that the USDA will not be doing any field testing, and will only test product after harvest, by which time all of the substances itemized above will have mostly dissipated and been rendered less detectable.
By way of illustration, Roundup, one of the most commonly used herbicides in industrial agriculture (which is prohibited in organic farming), dissipates in less than 28 days. You can rest assured that the highly educated people at the CFIA and USDA, along with those running the for-profit organic certifying agencies under the CFIA’s and USDA’s watch, are all well aware of this.
They’re also well aware that until someone starts testing to ensure manure is being fully composted, we’ll continue to see cases where people fall ill and even die after consuming unsafe certified-organic food that contains un-composted fecal matter.
The testing mandate all started back in 1998 when the American Consumers Union (ACU) performed random tests on a cross-section of organic food and discovered that fully one-quarter contained prohibited substances. This prompted the ACU to urge the USDA to include a clause for testing in the American organic program.
Fast forward to the present and a report on the USDA’s 2010–2011 pilot study on organic pesticide testing reveals that fully 43 percent of samples contained prohibited pesticides! And, again, this was on tests taken on end product in which there was ample time for prohibited substances to dissipate. Evidently things are getting worse.
In Canada meanwhile, the CFIA ran similar tests, in secret, and obtained results so troubling that it tried to suppress them. But, alas, Canadian authorities show no signs of following America down the road to commonsense. Bureaucracy and hype will continue to rule the day in the Great White North.
The course being taken by our American neighbours finally puts to rest all the unfounded objections by urban organic activists on both sides of the border that testing organic crops and livestock to ensure they’re genuine and safe was, for some strange reason, a big waste of time. So now it’s Canada’s move.
Anyone have Gerry Ritz’s cell number?
Mischa Popoff is a former USDA contract organic inspector and is the author of Is it Organic? If you happen to know Minister Gerry Ritz’s cell number, please send it to him through his website www.isitorganic.ca
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