Organic food is all the rage these days, but sometimes it’s difficult to see why. Earlier this year a group of Stanford researchers revealed that organic food is neither safer nor more nutritious than its cheaper generic counterparts. The only consistent benefit to organic produce was the lower rate of pesticide use.
But in Canada, the organic option may not even have that going for it. A new study by the Frontier Center for Public Policy reports that Canadian produce does not have to be tested for use of pesticides to receive an organic label, effectively allowing producers to enjoy the benefits (and higher prices) of organic food simply by claiming their ordinary food is organic. Needless to say, this leaves the door wide open for abuse. The National Post reports:
Not included in that process, however, is mandatory laboratory testing of products that could ensure organic-labelled food is actually farmed without pesticides, leaving the organics industry in the hands of the honour system.
“It amounts to little more than an extortion racket, one that the greediest of mafiosi would envy,” write Mischa Popoff and Patrick Moore in their report released this month by the Winnipeg-based, free-market-friendly think-tank.
The organic certification industry’s “dirty little secret,” they write, is that “organic crops and livestock are not tested in Canada before they are certified, thus making organic certification essentially meaningless.”
Even worse, the groups in charge of policing organic labeling are extremely close to producers and have no incentive to report any wrongdoing on the part of businesses:
“The greatest perversion lies in the fact that most CFIA-accredited organic certifiers also collect ‘royalties’ of between 1% and 3% on their clients’ gross revenue,” the Frontier Centre report says. “So, a certifier really has no incentive whatsoever to crack down on a client who might be breaking the rules.”
The CFIA-approved certifying agencies include companies abroad who can, in turn, bestow CFIA’s blessing onto Canadian producers, with little direct oversight. There are agencies providing CFIA-approved organic certification in Albania, Algeria, Burkina Faso, China, Colombia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Sierra Leone, and others places where environmental standards and business practices may not be as strict.
Once again, the greens have shown that despite their much-ballyhooed scientific knowledge, their understanding of politics and economics could use a bit more work.
This is not to say that all organic food in Canada is fake—despite the massive loopholes, there are doubtless still producers that play by the rules. But given the obvious, massive flaws in the labeling system and the mounting evidence that even properly-labeled organic produce is no better than conventional varieties, Canadian shoppers would do well to save their money on their next trip to the supermarket.