Letter to the Editor:
I was pleased to see mention of Canada¹s new Organic Products
Regulations in the pages of Food In Canada (May 2009): as a major new
food regulation, one would expect that a reputable trade journal for the
Canadian food sector would give it some attention.
The organic sector first asked the government for this regulation almost
20 years ago, and we are pleased that as of June 30, Canadian consumers
will now know that organic food meets Canadian requirements, is
consistently labelled, and allows greater access to the markets of our
trading partners worldwide, a market that is now valued at over $50
billion in sales a year.
I was not, however, impressed with the understanding of organic foods
displayed by Ronald L. Doering. To try to paint organic foods as the
culprit in a litany of recent food safety crises (spinach, peanuts,
etc.) is misleading, and it does not give one very much confidence in
the former head of Canada¹s food safety body. Surely Mr. Doering must
know that E. coli 0157:H7 is produced predominantly in the guts of
feedlot livestock, and not in the guts of organic baby spinach. His
comments on peanuts are simply not supported by fact. While organic
products were involved in the broad recall of peanut products, there
have been no confirmed reports of any illnesses linked to the
consumption of organic products.
In fact, some might take the position that it was conventional
agriculture which contaminated organic products in these examples. Food
safety problems typically result from cross-contamination, and this has
always been the number-one concern of the organic food sector. Indeed,
the premise of food safety and organic are one and the same: identity
preservation, traceability and accountability.
It makes sense to question where our food comes from and how it is made.
Rather than simply eating what¹s put in front of you, perhaps a food
system that also investigates the impact of what we do to our world has
some merit. Perhaps consumers have a right to know what antibiotics,
hormones and sanitizers are applied to their meat, what fossil-fuel
fertilizers are dumped on their land, and exactly which persistent toxic
chemicals are making mystery cocktails of their waterways. Canada's
organic standards and regulation offer exactly this accountability.
Finally, perhaps the readers of Food In Canada deserve a bit better than
innuendo and complacency. Perhaps they want to give their customers what
they want to buy. While the rest of the world is reeling from 2008,
organic sales continued to see more than 17% growth in North America.
Perhaps there's a business model in there somewhere: if you think so,
Matthew Holmes, managing director
Organic Trade Association in Canada