What is Organic?
Organic agriculture in Canada is based on principles that are enshrined in industry-developed standards approved by consumers and verified annually by third party organizations. As of 2009, federal organic standards are backed by government regulation and oversight. Organic standards are based on seven general principles:
- Protect the environment, minimize soil degradation and erosion, decrease pollution, optimize biological productivity and promote a sound state of health.
- Maintain long-term soil fertility by optimizing conditions for biological activity within the soil.
- Maintain biological diversity within the system.
- Recycle materials and resources to the greatest extent possible within the enterprise.
- Provide attentive care that promotes the health and meets the behavioural needs of livestock.
- Prepare organic products, emphasizing careful processing, and handling methods in order to maintain the organic integrity and vital qualities of the products at all stages of production
- Rely on renewable resources in locally organized agricultural systems.
What about Local AND Organic?
Sadly, “local” and “organic” have had the misfortune of entering our vocabulary as separate concepts and then getting jumbled into one, unclear concept. Canadian Organic Growers and its chapters and affiliated organizations are about local AND organic. To help you find out how you can ‘Regain control of your Food Choices’, the Perth-Waterloo-Wellington Chapter of COG developed this great resource. Local organic food sources for the Ottawa region are listed in our Organic Food Directory. The national COG website also has a national-scale directory.
Can organic farming really feed the world? According to the United Nations: YES!
You may have heard the criticism that organic food is really only for “rich white people” and that it is a luxury that the world cannot afford, what with the global population rapidly growing and the impacts of climate change and other human activities on food-growing regions. These claims have been proven to be false by a United Nations’ Report on the Right to Food ( full report) ( UN press release) released March 2011.
The UN press release says: “To feed 9 billion people in 2050, we urgently need to adopt the most efficient farming techniques available,” says Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food and author of the report. “Today’s scientific evidence demonstrates that agroecological methods outperform the use of chemical fertilizers in boosting food production where the hungry live — especially in unfavorable environments.” It goes on to say: “Conventional farming relies on expensive inputs, fuels climate change and is not resilient to climatic shocks. It simply is not the best choice anymore today,” De Schutter stresses. “A large segment of the scientific community now acknowledges the positive impacts of agroecology on food production, poverty alleviation and climate change mitigation — and this this is what is needed in a world of limited resources.”
In 2011 the Rodale Institute (in Pennsylvania) published a report on its 30 year trial of farming systems, which compares several aspects of organic and non-organic (commonly called conventional) production – a useful resource based on empirical assessment.