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A message from Ted Zettel

July 15, 2009

Congratulations to Canada’s Organic Movement!

Today is historic in the life of the movement of farmers, food processing and distribution companies, retailers and citizens, who love organic food. For many of us, who remember the time when “organic farming” was considered way out on the fringe, the realization of a federal organic regulation, and our own Canadian Organic Standard, marks a coming of age; a turning point in our development. The use of the word “organic” is now legally defined and regulated, with official enforcement by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. All the players in the system, from farmers to eaters, can have an added level of assurance that the value of the term organic is maintained, and that the principles on which the movement was founded are carried forward. We have come a long way. We are recognized as a valuable and growing segment of the food system, one that has the potential to overcome many of the problems that make our modern, industrialized, global economy unsustainable. There are many lucrative opportunities for successful businesses, now that more of the mainstream consumer base is aware of the organic alternative. This is a good thing. For the pioneers, who at one time found themselves locked out of the agri- business infrastructure, it is refreshing to take our place as legitimate, competent participants in the sector.

There is still a great deal of work to do and there are, as we launch the Canadian Organic Product Regulations, many unanswered questions. Many important details of the actual functioning of the system have yet to be worked out;

  • How will trade be affected – will we be effectively protected from imports produced to a different, less strenuous standard?
  • What about intra-provincial trade, or the unregulated export issue
  • How much “leakage” will there be from full compliance with the COS?
  • How will our standards be maintained
  • Will there be resources for the ongoing CGSB process?
  • Will the regulator (Canadian Organic Office) continue to be responsive to the needs of the sector as needed changes are identified?
  • Can we hold off the forces that would try to “water down” the standard – to bring it closer to conventional best practices?
  • Are we, within the Canadian organic food movement, capable of working together and fostering a unity of purpose that gives us a credible voice?

These and other uncertainties remain in the minds of all of us. There will be a time of transition, requiring patience and good will, in order to ensure that the commerce we’ve developed continues to grow. This is a time to congratulate each other on the hard work and perseverance that has been so generously given by hundreds of individuals; pioneers and leaders in organic food. It is also a time to take stock of what can be accomplished by people who are committed to an ideal, who agree that, despite their differences, they will work together to achieve a common goal. My hope is that we continue to do this, so that what we celebrate today can be protected, strengthened and grown in the months and years ahead.

Ted Zettel President, Organic Federation of Canada

© Organic Federation of Canada