Protecting Organic Integrity
The organic system is designed to protect the purity and integrity of organic products. It does this through a strict set of rules (organic standards). Annually, Certification Bodies send inspectors to the farm or processing facility to verify that operators are implementing appropriate measures to protect organic integrity. These measures include careful segregation of organic ingredients and foods from conventional foods and, at the farm level, placing buffer zones between organic and non organic crops. Buffer zones - which can include roads, hedges, or crops that are not harvested as organic, must be a minimum of 8 m wide. Certification Bodies can require even larger buffers when the risk of contamination is high.
Organic farmers need to worry about both chemical and genetic contamination. For instance, if they want to grow organic canola and their neighbour is growing RoundUp Ready canola - a crop that has been genetically engineered (GE) to withstand herbicide applications, a Certification Body will be unlikely to certify the crop. That's because there is scientific evidence that pollen from GE canola can travel up to 2 km. Other pollutants such as pesticides represent a more localized risk that is easier to manage with buffer zones.
Organic standards place the onus to prevent contamination squarely on the shoulders of farmers. Organic farmers are feeling increasingly threatened by genetic contamination because such contamination is getting harder to control with buffer zones. More and more geneticallly modified crops are being approved by our government and larger and larger swaths of agricultural land are now managed under biotechnology agreements ( GE crops). Click here to find out more about genetic contamination and what it means for agriculture, for ecosystems and for human and animal health.
Click here for more info on Genetic Contamination of Organic Crops.