PEI - A Backwater In a World Going Organic
April 2, 2001
EARTH ACTION WEEKLY
Sometimes it feels like we live in a time warp here on PEI. There are
advantages to this - less violent crime and a slower pace of life. The
downside is things are slow to change and information about what's
happening in the rest of the world, even in the information age, is slow to
percolate down to the ordinary person. Government and industry work side
by side to pump out a never-ending stream of propaganda about the
wonderfully healthy food we grow on PEI, and how we need pesticides to grow
| "Slick TV and radio ads are designed to
con the gullible into believing PEI food is grown by Farmer Jones... What's missing ...are dead fish, parents running for cover with their kids when the
sprayers come, convulsing poisoned birds, children in cancer wards and the
stench of pesticides in the air."|
Last fall, at the UPEI forum on the State of the PEI environment, I sat on
a panel with Minister of Agriculture Mitch Murphy. He had the nerve to
stand up in a room packed to the rafters and tell people that we need
pesticides, that the benefits out-weigh the risks. This was the same line
he gave us last summer after the all fishkills.
Now the province has concocted a crazy ad campaign to 'brand' Canadian and
American 'consumers' with PEI food. Slick TV and radio ads are designed to
con the gullible into believing PEI food is grown by Farmer Jones in
overalls and a straw hat - no factory farms here. What's missing from this
picture are dead fish, parents running for cover with their kids when the
sprayers come, convulsing poisoned birds, children in cancer wards and the
stench of pesticides in the air.
| "PEI children are the most pesticide exposed in Canada. If blood and urine
samples were taken from children during spray season, the results would be
What follows is a little glimpse into the outside world - news clippings
about a world going organic. When you read about the amazing things going
on in other countries, think about the $24 million in subsidies Canadian
taxpayers just shelled out so that PEI potato growers can keep poisoning
us. Think about the 773% increase in agricultural pesticide sales on PEI
from 1982 to 1999 and RAGE!
PEI children are the most pesticide exposed in Canada. If blood and urine
samples were taken from children during spray season, the results would be
There is no need for the poisoning to continue. There are only 395,000
acres of cropland on all of PEI. This is exactly the number of acres in
organic production in England, and close to Finland's organic acreage.
Saskatchewan will have 700,000 acres of organically farmed land this year.
Islanders are being ripped off and lied to by the Binns government.
Pesticides are not needed to grow food and all subsidies to
pesticide-spraying growers, not in the process of converting to organic,
Clippings from various sources:
UNITED KINGDOM -
(December 2000) England's growing organic sector receives a boost from the
New Year when more funds become available to encourage farmers to convert.
Around £13m will become available for new organic farmers as part of a
£140m seven year programme to expand the sector. The injection of funds
could increase the sector by up to a fifth over the coming year. A further
£5m will go this year to farmers who are already signed up to the scheme.
Under the Organic Farming Scheme's first round, 1270 farmers were allocated
£30m over five years to assist their move to organic production: three
times more than in the previous five years put together. The latest figures
suggest that the organic acreage in England is 395,000 acres or 1.7 per
cent of agricultural land.
Countryside Minister Elliot Morley said: "We believe firmly in consumer
choice and we want to see that consumers are able to buy organic produce if
they wish to. We also want to capture the environmental benefits which
organic farming can provide. 1270 farmers are already benefiting from aid
under the Organic Farming Scheme and we aim to build on that success by
bringing much more land into organic production."
(June 2000) A reliable supply of quality UK grown organic fruit at
reasonable prices will be available in around five years time if a major
research programme by Horticulture Research International proves
successful. The work is backed by a recent £2.26 million award from the
Ministry of Agriculture to develop a new European Centre of Excellence for
both organic fruit research and hardy nursery stock in the heart of the
apple-growing Kent countryside.
(October 2000) New research claims that over 16,000 new jobs could be
created if the Organic Food and Farming Targets Bill became law. At a time
of a depression in the agriculture sector, research suggests that
conversion to organic farming results in an employment increase on farms of
between 10% and 30%, as organic farms are characterized by less external
inputs and more on farm activities, thereby creating a greater demand for
The Organic Food and Farming Targets Bill is backed by over 200 MPs and 100
organisations and aims to ensure that:
- a strategy is put in place for the organic sector;
- 30% of agricultural land in England and Wales is organic by 2010;
- 20% of the food marketed in England and Wales is organic by 2010 (i.e.
that sufficient marketing and processing infrastructure is in place for the
increased organic food to reach the consumer);
- organic food becomes more affordable to more people.
(March 2001) Sales of organic food in the UK grew by a record 55 per cent
in the year to April 2000, according to the Organic Food and Farming Report
2000, published today.
"The organic market topped £600 million in 1999-2000, and our new report
shows not only that more people are buying organic but they are buying more
frequently and spending more when they buy," says Patrick Holden, the Soil
(July 2000) Iceland Frozen Foods is to convert its entire ice cream range
organic within the next 12 months. Iceland sells over 13 percent of ice
cream in the UK. Its standard ice cream tubs will be produced by
Cheshire-based Harvest House Foods, a company formed by farmers, Jonathon
Middlemiss and Tom Fell, who developed Iceland's first organic ice cream
last year. The new contract has enabled the two to invest £1.5 million to
build a dedicated organic ice cream processing factory at their Tattenhall
Dairy, producing seven ice cream flavours and creating 30 new jobs.
There are around 100 organic dairy farmers in the UK and Iceland is seeking
to talk to them about supply. The vast majority of milk from these farmers
currently supplies the liquid milk market, therefore, there is insufficient
double cream available. Because of this lack of availability, Harvest House
can only source a third of its organic cream requirements from this country
and has to import the other two thirds of its cream requirements from Austria.
Russell Ford, Iceland's managing director, said: "Our aim is to source
ingredients from UK farmers but there just isn't enough organic cream in
this country to satisfy our requirements. We are now working together to
talk to UK dairy farmers about supply."
Farmer Jonathan Middlemiss said: "Our contract with Iceland means that a
new market for organic products is being created, which will give dairy
farmers a real incentive to convert to organic. We are now working in
partnership with Iceland and the NFU to share advice and give support to UK
dairy farmers about organic conversion and supply."
(August 2000) SAC's Craibstone Farm in Aberdeenshire has become the first
producer of wholesale, commercial organic milk in Scotland. Now the 2000
litres of organic milk produced each day at Craibstone is being sold to
OMSCO (the Organic Milk Supply Company) for onward distribution to
retailers and dairy product manufacturers. For the first time manufacturers
of organic products in Scotland can buy home-produced supplies of organic
Glasgoforest Farm, a near neighbour, achieved organic status simultaneously
with Craibstone and is also supplying its organically-produced milk to OMSCO.
(November 2000) The switch to organic farming is increasingly being seen as
a viable, mainstream alternative to conventional agriculture and will
afford significant opportunities for the Northern Ireland farming
community, according to Brid Rodgers, Minister for Agriculture and Rural
Brid Rodgers said: "One way of catering for the increasing demand of
consumers is to consider moving to organic production. That is why I have
made provision within the Northern Ireland Rural Development Regulation
Plan to boost significantly the resources available under the Organic
Farming Scheme. This will support up to 1,000 farmers during their
conversion to organic production methods over the next 6 years."
"I have also commissioned a strategic study to identify the nature and
scale of the opportunities that are open to the Northern Ireland organic
sector. The study will aim to produce a development plan to enable farmers
to realize its potential."
(March 2001) Agriculture Minister Renate Kuenast has promised Germany will
turn increasingly to natural farming methods, even though it will add to
the costs the sector already faces because of the mad cow crisis.
Kuenast was cited as saying late Friday that Berlin hopes to increase the
amount of German land being farmed organically -- without the use of
chemical pesticides and fertilisers -- from 2.4 percent to 20 percent over
the next 10 years.
From 2002 to 2005, the government would invest 250 million euros (218
million dollars) in organic farming, she added during a speech in Berlin.
But she kept to her tough line regarding Germany's regional governments,
which have called for extra federal aid to cope with the mad cow crisis,
which has, the story says, been blamed on intensive, industrial methods,
stating, "It is not for the consumers or the taxpayers to take on
100 percent of the consequences of bad agricultural policy."
(October 2000) Plenty of organic products are now available in Finnish
grocery shops, especially supermarkets and hypermarkets. The supply of
organic dairy products, flours and breads has expanded. Organic meat is
difficult to find. Organic tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and onions are
easiest to find in shops. Organic dairy products are easy to find
throughout the country. Organic milk was available at nearly every shop in
the survey. Organic eggs were available in 75% of shops. Different types of
organic bread were easy to find in shops. Bona and Elo-Eväs organic baby
foods were available in shops. Organic coffee has established its place in
grocery shops. Different types of organic teas were available in 20-bag
(August 2000) Finland has one of the highest percentages of land area under
organic farming at 6.4% in the year 2000, totalling 351,000 acres. The
current volume of processed organic products is small and is mainly soft
liquorice and bread (crispy dry and frozen). In 2000 Finland will also
export certified organic wild berries and jams.
The domestic organic food market is developing rapidly (30-40% per year)
but is still only about 1% of the Finnish food market.
As primary production is growing in most countries it is estimated that the
European organic market will grow by 30-40% each year to average a 5-6%
market share in 2006. The same trend is seen in North America and Japan but
an even more severe undersupply is expected in those countries if organic
subsidies are not introduced. It is estimated that organic food exports
from Finland could reach 100 million Euro by 2006, equalling 10% of the
Finnish food exports.
(September 2000) A recent survey of 1000 Australian consumers shows that
over half of all Australians are prepared to pay more for organic food.
(June 2000) A State Government program to position Queensland to secure its
share of the world organic food market, estimated to be worth $150 billion
within five years, focused on Brisbane today.
"The State Government believes Queensland is very well-positioned to become
a major supplier of organic food to both domestic and international
markets," Primary Industries and Rural Communities Minister Palaszczuk
said. "Already our organic producers are making in-roads into export
markets, including Queensland organic beef being sold in Japanese
supermarkets. Australian organic production is valued at about $250
million. There are significant opportunities for Queensland producers to
explore and the State Government is offering its support."
NEW ZEALAND -
(September 2000) A recent survey shows that around 70 per cent of farmers
in this country believe the future of farming lies with organics.
(June 2000) Nikken Foods Ltd, a large Japanese health food company, has
recently brought a farm and an old school in South Island, New Zealand, to
convert to organic production and processing as well as a health and
environmental education centre.
"Foreign nations are moving their business to New Zealand as they clearly
see the merits in producing organic food in a country with a clean, green
reputation," said Green Party's Mr Ewen-Street. "The appeal is also because
to date New Zealand is free of genetic engineering and this holds massive
appeal to organic producers."
Mr. Ewen-Street congratulated Nikken Foods for setting up a 'showcase
organic farm' near Oamaru and said the company's investment in the area
would be good news for the regional economy.
"Companies like Nikken are the tip of the iceberg and there is no way they
would be choosing to come here if we had fields full of genetically
engineered corn, wheat, soy or rape," he claimed.
"Seventy per cent of New Zealanders know our future lies in organics, 70
per cent of those who produce our crops know it too," Ewan-Street continued.
UNITED STATES -
(November 2000) The Horizon Organic Dairy, Farm and Education Center was
opened on Saturday, October 14, 2000, after a year-long period of
construction and restoration. The centre, located in Maryland, is the most
extensive organic learning facility in the United States.
The 875-acre farm features interactive exhibits, cow milking
demonstrations, product tasting and an opportunity for visitors to meet the
animals. The Center will also host ongoing events, entertainment and
seminars. Tens of thousands of local schoolchildren and their teachers will
tour the facility in its first year.
According to Jan Stanton, Education Center manager, "The goal of the
facility is to create an experience that educates children and adults, and
is a lot of fun at the same time." Kids can try their hand at crop
rotation, choose which bugs are good or bad for the farm, even crawl
through a "worm tunnel" and experience a day in the life of a healthy,
happy cow. "Visitors will explore the natural balance achieved by raising
plants and animals without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or
antibiotics," Stanton says.
Exhibits at the Center address local environmental issues, such as the
impact of farming in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
(December 2000) Organic food production is exploding in Saskatchewan. In 1996,
there were 380 certified organic growers in the province and 241,000
certified organic acres. Three years later there were 590 fully certified
producers and 240 in the process of transition. It is expected that organic
acreage will top 700,000 next year, which would give Saskatchewan the
highest percentage of organic cultivated acres anywhere in the world.
Saskatchewan has the fastest rate of adoption of organic farming in
Canada. Beckie, who recently completed a dissertation on organic and
zero-till farming in Saskatchewan, outlined the economic reasons for the
rapid expansion of the organic sector at a time when agriculture is in
- Organic farmer's input costs are about 20-60 per cent lower than
those on conventional farms.
- Organic farmers receive prices 30 per cent to 300 per cent above
those received by conventional farmers. A big market is the
European Union, where organic food represents four per cent of the
total food market.
- Organic farming is ``scale-neutral,'' meaning it can be done on
a large or small scale. Beckie says that a smaller-scale organic
farm growing high-value specialty crops, and with additional
diversification in processing and marketing, can generate the same
or a higher gross income than a large-scale conventional grain
- Organic farms usually support greater income stability than
other farms, reducing risks associated with crop failure or rapid
shifts in market trends. And organic farmers can utilize their
time in ways that allow them to diversify into processing and