The Canada-Switzerland Organic Equivalency Arrangement will allow for free trade in certified organic products between Canada and Switzerland. But there’s a problem. Swiss authorities require field testing; Canadian authorities do not, according to Mischa Popoff, author about organic production and policy advisor for The Heartland Institute as well as research associate for The Frontier Centre for Public Policy.
The Swiss organic standard stipulates quite clearly that “In case of doubt, the necessary analyses must be carried out.” The Canadian standard meanwhile does not require any testing (analyses), and instead relies completely on the word of the farmer or processor as detailed in the farmer or processor’s own paperwork, Popoff explains.
“So while the Swiss standard for organic production takes objective, scientific steps to prevent fraud and gross negligence, the Canadian standard invites fraud and gross negligence, and does so the world over,” Popoff complains.
Popoff cannot understand exactly how Canadian authorities ever managed to convince Swiss authorities to enter into an organic equivalency agreement between the two countries, and he wonders if Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has the answer.
“What’s more, as Patrick Moore, Ph.D., and I describe in our full report on the Canadian organic industry, farmers and processors throughout the world are currently being certified under Canada’s organic standard, and in fact provide the lion’s share of the product being certified as ‘Canadian,’” Popoff said.
Canada has similar equivalency agreements with other countries in Europe, and the United States. Like the Swiss standard, European Union and U.S. Department of Agriculture standards for organic production clearly describe how and when testing must take place in order for product to be considered organic.
He asks, “Without so much as a mention of testing in the Canadian standard, how do these equivalency agreements hold up?”
Popoff ends by noting, “The irony is that any farmer or processor anywhere in the world can become certified under Canada’s lax organic standards, which means that a Swiss, EU or American farmer or processor can now actually apply under Canada’s standard, and as long as he maintains his paperwork, can gain access to his own (national) market as readily as any other organic farmer or processor in his country who adheres to that country’s much more stringent, scientific standard.”