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Debate on the use of the word Organic

There has been some suggestions that the 2004 agriculture plank was not strong enough on organic agriculture. In fact, it barely used the word organic.

I am convinced that we agree in intent and objective, but the language and approach are different.

In proposal favour strong organic objectives, the key item was the establishment of a national organic action plan.

The 2004 plank that we published IS the organic action plan. The perceived difference is that the plank talks about means and changes in agriculture but does not use the word organic very often. That is because the items of the plank are the required structural changes in agriculture to enable it to become organic. It is one thing to say organic, it is another challenge to find the tools and levers to make it happen.

There are many examples of an organic action plan and you will recognize the words in the plank:
  • chemicals are widespread because they are cheap and costs are externalized, so we implement full cost accounting thus making chemicals unaffordable.
  • new and young organic farmers cannot get into milk, eggs and chicken because quota is too expensive, so we change the supply management system.
  • animals are not on range because antibiotics are cheaper, so we make antibiotics more expensive with full cost accounting.
  • animals are mistreated and locked in dense feedlots and factory farms because fertilizers and fuels are cheap, thus making grain production and transportation cheaper than pasture. So we implement full cost accounting, increase fossil fuel taxes and farmers will find pastures to be cheaper.
  • small family farms cannot compete against industrial farms because of economies of scale, cheap transportation, and capital costs in food safety. So we adapt regulations to create a level playing playing field, encourage community processors and local independant slaughter facilities.
  • organic and small farms cannot reach the consumer because of corporate concentration in the processing and retail sectors. So we foster direct marketing and cooperative marketing schemes to bring farmers and consumers closer together.
  • organic practices are not popular because of poor funding for research and education. So we re-align government research and education towards sustainable practices.
  • consumers have lost touch with food sources and the inherent cost of food, so we develop urban organic agriculture to raise the importance and value and visibility of food in the eyes of urban consumers.
  • liquid manure is popular on large livestock farms because mechanical processing is cheap and fertilizer replacement is cheap, so we implement national nutrient management standards with a focus on solid manure composting.
  • instead of feeding our population with nutritious organic food, Canada has developing an unstable export market for grains and meat. So we prioritize food security and food sovereinty in international trade and develop bio-regional food distribution systems.
I trust that this action plan will acheive the goals that we all aspire to. All these action items cater to the definition and feasiblity of organic farming.

Great Ideas For a Better Way to Live!

Tom Manley
Agriculture Advocate - The Green Party of Canada

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