Organic farmers need the help of food consumers to make the national organic certification program work. The consumer must challenge the quality of certified organic products to give them credibility.
Organic farmers need the help of food consumers to make the national organic certification program work. The consumer must challenge the quality of certified organic products to give them credibility. At last count, there were 47 certification organizations across Canada. Now there is a national program and all the standards of the other volunteer programs will have to meet or exceed it.
In organic production, we can audit the trail from producer to customer. I am certified organic by the Canadian Organic Certification Cooperative Ltd. My membership certification number is 0017. That number and the "lot" number will be marked on every bag of my product wherever it goes in North America. If you bought my radish seed in a health food store in Dallas, Texas, or St John’s, Newfoundland, that number should be on the container or the operators of the stores must be able to provide the number. The product can then be traced back to my farm where the radish is produced. If it were bread, my number would be on the bread wrapper. I know my own production best so I will use my radish crop as an example.
I harvested my radish seed last fall (1999). It is presently stored in a granary certified as organically safe storage. I was fortunate to get a spell of dry, windy weather while harvesting. Ten per cent is the highest moisture content allowable. The moisture content in my radish seed was 6.3 per cent.
Shortly after harvesting the radish seed, I sent a sample to Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds Ltd in Shellbrook, Saskatchewan, for testing. Mumm’s markets 30 kinds of certified organic sprouting seeds all over North America. They send their samples to BDS Laboratories in Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan, to test for E coli and salmonella bacteria. When the report came back, Jim Mumm informed me that the sample did not show any signs of either bacteria. The tests are carried out on the seeds after they are sprouted at the laboratory.
I am presently waiting for a call to send my radish seed to the cleaning plant that Mumm’s uses for some of its seeds. The plant is certified for cleaning organic seed. After the radish seed is cleaned, Mumm’s takes a sample out of every tenth bag and forwards it to the laboratory for more testing. The seed is not marketed for human food unless it is free of E coli and salmonella. It must pass the test a second time.
Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds Ltd is certified organic by Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA). The company is also certified by Farm Verified Organic (FVO65) which is recognized by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements. Jensen’s Seed Cleaning Plant–who will clean my radish seed for Mumm’s–is certified to clean organic seed by OCIA.
My number is used instead of my name because if there is a complaint, it goes to the certification agency that investigates the complaint with the producer member. People who are certified to handle the product all along the line will be investigated if necessary. I, or anyone else involved in the marketing of my product, could lose organic certification if found at fault.
If E. coli or salmonella were found in a half dozen places in North America, Mumm’s would be out of business. Jim Mumm says that in all the tests they have done over the years, none has ever contained E. coli or salmonella. He is a firm believer in the nutritional value of sprouting seeds. When seeds, beans and grains are sprouted, their nutrients are released. It is a very simple procedure and once you learn how to sprout, it is an inexpensive way to get your "greens" at any time of the year.
The steps I have outlined are similar to the marketing of any certified organic product. However, the final test is made in the stomach of the consumer. That is the reason it is so important that consumers have first-hand knowledge of the organic certification process. Consumers must have input into this process to make it work.