Posted by: Mahdi Ebrahimi | January 1, 2008

Organic food needs better testing, advocate says

An organic farmer and farm inspector is calling for better testing of food before it can be sold as organic.

Mischa Popoff of Osoyoos, B.C., said the government certification by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is not adequate.

Given that organic food has become a billion-dollar business, “somebody’s cheating,” he said, and the CFIA is just rubber stamping paperwork.

In a recent posting on the Consumer’s Association of Canada website, Popoff said “organic food isn’t tested.” Instead, the CFIA relies on honour-based self-auditing, and checks receipts for approved inputs like manure, used by organic farmers rather than chemical fertilizers.

The most troubling thing is farmers are notified before an inspection, Popoff told CBC News. “The person you’re visiting is just going to make sure that you see what they want you to see and their records are going to be in order or they wouldn’t agree to the meeting in the first place.”

The CFIA website said it oversees the system involving existing accreditation bodies, whose officers will do “on-farm and facility organic production system verification.” The agency will carry out “compliance verification and enforcement activities.”

The federal government announced the certification program in 2006, with a two-year phase-in ending in December 2008.

Federal Agriculture Minister Chuck Stahl said in July that under the federal program, consumers will know that products with the federal logo “have met strict criteria and are certified organic.”

Federal certifications require:

  • Using natural fertilizers.
  • Raising animals in natural conditions as much as possible.
  • Products to contain at least 95 per cent organic ingredients.

After December 2008, all organic products that cross provincial or international borders must be certified. At least two provinces — British Columbia and Quebec — have provincial programs.



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