Au Natural 

Eating the way nature intended

B.C. Organic growers are ready to enter the world market

It’s a tale of two tomatoes. Or three. Or four.

One is grown in a greenhouse under artificial lights, consuming electricity and heat provided by fossil fuel-powered generators. Another is grown outside with the aid of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Another is produced on a factory farm somewhere, genetically modified to resist pests and the cold.

The fourth tomato, however, is a little bit different. It’s not quite as perfect looking, with spots and scars here and there. It costs a little more, but then it has a higher nutritional value, according to some dietitians. It was grown without any artificial fertilizers or pesticides, and sits before you the way nature intended.

Which one do you buy?

An increasing number of enlightened and health-conscious consumers are picking tomato number four, potato number four, anything that is certified organic.

Last year, B.C.’s 500 organic farms sold about $12.5 million worth of organic products, and growth in the rest of the country continued in the range of 20 per cent annually. Canadian markets for organic products are expected to be worth $3 billion annually by 2005. How do you like them potatoes?

While Canadian consumers will be a large part of this market, organic growers are also looking south and to Europe as potential markets for our organic products.

The Certified Organic Association of British Columbia (COABC) is taking steps to ensure that the province’s certification program is accepted by these new markets.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries has kicked in a $45,000 grant to the association, to tweak the province’s program so that it falls into line with international requirements – small differences of opinion as to what exactly the minimum requirements are for food to be considered "organic" are all that is keeping Canadian produce off foreign shelves.

"Our growing organic sector depends on having a credible certification program that guarantees the growing methods for organic products to consumers," said agriculture minister Ed Conroy. "Our growers need to meet global standards to expand into the international marketplace."

A new certification system will presumably meet the requirements for organic certification in the U.S., Europe, and other organic producing companies.

Right now B.C. is ahead of the game, according to COABC president Glen Wakeling. "B.C.’s organic community continues to be envied by our counterparts in the rest of Canada. We have superior grade organic standards and good support from our provincial government. This success can be attributed to the work of all the dedicated people in the organic movement."

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