Organic sector gets funding

Agriculture Canada has announced $8 million in funding for the Organic Federation of Canada to lead an organic science cluster.

“Investments like this in research and development span the entire value chain, from production through to the consumer, and support the competitiveness, growth and prosperity of the organic sector and our overall economy,” federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz said in a news release.

Two hundred scientists from academia, government and industry are expected to use the funding. Research priorities include crop breeding, creating new reduced tillage systems, enhancing soil health and developing ways to manage crop pests, diseases and livestock parasites.

“This project involves researchers across the country working together to provide us with the tools needed to expand production to meet the ever-growing consumer demand for organic food,” Ted Zettel, president of the Organic Federation of Canada, said in the news release.

In 2010, the federal government invested $6.5 million to establish the organic science cluster.

Mischa Popoff, a former organic inspector, alleges the lion’s share of the $8 million government subsidy will be funnelled into political activism against genetically modified crops. He believes the money should be spent on testing organic crops to ensure they are free of pesticides and other forbidden substances.

“America does require field testing of organic crops to ensure they’re genuine and safe. Canada does not,” said Popoff in a news release.

“We urge Canadian authorities to bring Canada’s organic standards into the 21st century by rewriting them, eliminating all the useless record-keeping and record-checking and replacing it with once-annual, unannounced field testing.”

Popoff said three-quarters of the organic food sold in Canada is imported, squeezing out Canadian farmers.

Zettel was contacted for this story but did not respond to an e-mail request for an interview.

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