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organic-food-small.jpg Currently, the British Columbia government is trying to figure out which ministry should be handling the issue of whether to label genetically modified foods at a time when a Greenpeace poll suggests consumers in the province are worried about it.

The poll conducted by Strategic Communications surveyed 601 eligible B.C. voters and found almost 80 per cent of them said they want the government to force companies to reveal if the food they are eating has been genetically engineered.

When asked about the poll’s findings, the Environment Ministry transferred the question to the Agriculture Ministry, and a spokesman there said he’d have to talk to federal Health Department officials in Ottawa later.

There have been three major consultations since 1993 in Canada on the labelling of novel foods derived from genetic engineering. The federal government called for voluntary labelling of genetically engineered foods and the provincial Liberal government in Quebec has promised to introduce a food-labeling law.

On April 15,2004, the Government of Canada announced the official adoption by the Standards Council of Canada, of the Standard for Voluntary Labelling and Advertising of Foods That Are and Are Not Products of Genetic Engineering, as a National Standard of Canada. These principles are said to be consistent with policy for all foods under the Food and Drugs Act. This meant that consumers could start to see more labels on some food ingredients and food items indicating whether or not they are a product of genetic engineering.

Based on these consultations, a set of guidelines were developed. They reflect a general consensus to:

* require mandatory labelling if there is a health or safety concern, i.e. from allergens or a significant nutrient or compositional change (these decisions will be made by Health Canada)
* ensure labelling is understandable, truthful and not misleading
* permit voluntary positive labelling on the condition that the claim is not misleading or deceptive and the claim itself is factual
* permit voluntary negative labelling on the condition that the claim is not misleading or deceptive and the claim itself is factual.

While mandatory labelling will be required when genetically engineered products have a significant health, safety or compositional change the government recognizes the consumer’s desire for more non-safety related information. Consumer choice can already be accommodated through Canadian legislation via voluntary labelling by food manufacturers.

The federal government passed the Organic Products Regulation on December 14, 2006 ( ).

2007 Canadian Organics Fact Sheet

The Organics sector is the fastest growing part of the Agri-Food industry in Canada

* Sales are increasing at 25% per year.
* Canada had 3,618 certified organic producers in 2005. Another 241 farmers were making the transition from conventional to organic farming.
* Over 1.3 million acres (530,919 ha) of land in Canada are used to grow organic food. Another 118,500 acres (47,955 ha) are in transition to certification.
* Wheat is Canada’s largest organic crop with over 187,000 acres (75,816 ha).
* Organic livestock production is increasing dramatically. From 2004 to 2005, the beef herd increased by 30%, sheep numbers by 19%, laying hens by 20% and poultry by 56%.
* The number of certified organic processors and handlers increased by 47% between 2004 and 2005, with the largest increases observed in British Columbia and Quebec.

Organic agriculture bans the use of harmful substances

* Organic agriculture prevents approximately 1,157,748 kg of synthetic chemicals from entering our environment every year, including synthetic pesticides, fungicides, insecticides, rodenticides, fertilizers and wood preservatives.
* Organic agriculture also bans the use of sewage sludge and materials and products produced from genetic engineering.
* Animals are raised without the use of antibiotics and growth hormones, or other synthetic veterinary drugs.
* Animals consume only 100% organic feed.

Organic food has added health benefits
* Eating organic food reduces the amount of toxic chemicals ingested.
* Organic fruits and vegetables have significantly higher levels of cancer-fighting antioxidants, produced by the plant to help fight off insects and competing plants.
* Organic food production avoids the use of genetically modified organisms.
* Organic food has no synthetic dyes, food additives or preservatives.

Organic agriculture is a holistic system of production
* The principle goal of organic agriculture is to develop productive enterprises that are sustainable and harmonious with the environment.
* It is designed to optimize the productivity and fitness of diverse communities within the agro-ecosystem, including soil organisms, plants, livestock and people.
* It replenishes and maintains long-term soil fertility by providing optimal conditions for soil biological activity, through crop rotation, tillage and cultivation practices; and by using natural fertilizers.
* It improves surrounding water quality.
* It provides attentive and ethical care that meets both the health and behavioral requirements of livestock.
* It maintains the integrity of organic food and processed products through each step of the process from planting to consumption.
* It reduces energy use in the various stages of production.

Certified organic farms and processors must follow a regulated set of standards

* The federal government passed the Organic Products Regulation on December 14, 2006.
* The new regulation will provide an easily recognizable national logo to identify food that is certified as “Canada Organic,” and meets a mandatory standard of organic food production.
* Following a 2 year phase in period, all organic products must be certified organic for inter-provincial and international trade.
* Under the proposed organic regulation, organic certification bodies will be accredited by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency based on the recommendation of approved accreditation bodies.
* Certification bodies ensure that the organic farms or processing facilities that they certify as organic are in compliance with the organic standard.
* Verification is done by trained independent inspectors who visit the farms or processing facilities annually.

Sources: Voluntary Standard for Labelling of Genetically Engineered Food Becomes a National Standard, Labelling of Genetically Engineered Foods in Canada, Canada’s Organic Heroes recognized for advancing Canada’s organic food sector, Say no to genetic engineering, Food , New report shows 2006 was worst year ever for contamination of crops by rogue genetically engineered variants

Related blog posts: FDA OKs meat, milk from cloned animals, Genetically modified Crops Storming the U.S. Market, No to milk from cloned cows says the largest milk company in U.S.

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