Is that a big splash of passion on your organic vegetable? You better believe it.

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It is very tempting to write about the weather this month. I don’t suppose it would make much of an article though- suffice it to say, the rain might eventually be interrupted by the sun and the mountains could appear when the gloom ceiling lifts. Sunlight, though it may be the enemy of shady dealings, is not providing inspiration for this article.

Shady dealings are.

I think it’s a shady marketing ploy to stand in front of a room full of organic farmers boasting about bringing a bill before government that will put an end to false organic claims, regulate the use of the word “organic”, accept our thanks and congratulations for doing so… and fail to mention that the word “organic” will not appear once in the 32 pages of legislation.

Such was Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick’s presentation last weekend at the BC Organic Conference.

In fact, all the marketing leading up to the introduction of the bill has been about how fabulously grateful the organic industry is to government for creating this “bill for the organic industry” and how after passing it “organic will mean organic”. Take for example the bill’s press release direct from the ministry the title of which is: “Providing consumers certainty when buying B.C. organic products”.

If I was a consumer, I would be pretty curious to know why the word “organic” isn’t in this bill. The cynical organic farmer jumps immediately to the conclusion that the conventional chemical farming industry lobbied successfully against including that word. I did write the minister asking him if this was the case but have not yet heard back.

The fact is the chemical farming industry is losing market share to the organic industry and are spending a lot of money lobbying against just this sort of public policy. Enshrining the word “organic” in an act of provincial legislation would be a galling and perhaps expensive indicator that organic farming is a precious industry worthy of protection. I suspect that the chemical farming industry may not appreciate the competition.

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You know, small farms in developing countries using organic methods account for 80% of the food supply there. These are farms that are not using purchased fertilizers or a suite of chemicals for pest and weed control. This is not a very well-known fact, probably because this sort of farming makes no money for anyone but the farmer and her family (a lot of them are women). There is a lot of pressure to abandon the land to larger holdings mono-cropping a chemically supported export commodity and go to the city to find work.

The UN knows the world needs more to eat than difficult-to-digest wheat, high fructose corn syrup, soy products and other high yield/intensive/low nutrition crops but it does not suit the narrative of conventional agriculture to have it pointed out in any official way that lashings of food can be produced without the use of off-farm inputs. It must be worth every million they spend on lobbying governments to resist popular calls for GMO labelling, nutritional guidelines, agricultural chemical regulation, antibiotic use controls, food animal treatment standards and organic protection… Sometimes I wonder if they feel it’s like trying to hold back the tides.

To bring it back around to the local situation, I’ll just point out that the lobbyists for our organic industry are almost entirely volunteers. They have worked hard to get government to strengthen organic claims policy. I can’t think they are very happy with Norm Letnick’s Bill 11.

Here is a self portrait of my boots. The muck is mine.

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