BY KANDACE GALLANT
In Canada, there are currently 3,713 certified organic farmers. That’s only 1.5 per cent of farmers in Canada, and only 0.9 per cent in Ontario. Is switching over to organic really important?
Being a certified organic farmer takes a lot of hard work. It can take them up to five years to get certified. They have to use, and be picky about, specific veterinary drugs if they have livestock, as well as use different synthetic fertilizers for their soil. Imported fertilizer for non-organic places drive the price down on regular produce and chemicals that are sprayed on the non-organic produce are so strong that the labourers have to wear full hazmat suits in order to do their job safely. Organic food protects you from these harsh chemicals, additives and preservatives and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Angus Crawford and Chelsea Clark, founders of the restaurant Rawlicious in Guelph, said GMOs are potentially harmful to the environment and our bodies. “GMOs are potentially harmful in the long term to our bodies by providing certain nutrients and components in combinations that nature didn’t intend. There are many potential cross-pollination issues. For various crops this could be disastrous.”
They said people should eat organically in order to avoid consuming these harsh pesticides and chemicals, and that organic produce tastes better anyway.
“Part of encouraging people, especially the younger ones, to eat more fruits and vegetables is making sure they taste good,” Crawford said.
Sarah Marks, a first-year student in pre-health sciences at Conestoga College, said she and her parents buy organic produce, but that it’s costly. “I don’t understand why, for example, a container of organic blueberries is $5, but the non-organic blueberries next to them are $2.”
It’s particularly hard for students because they have a tight budget.
“Perhaps it’s the labour component in organic farming that makes up the difference,” said Crawford. “The farms that grow non-organic produce are much larger and have more advanced mechanical systems which might cut down cost. On organic farms, instead of spraying plants with chemicals to ward off bugs, farmers hand pick them off or hand dust them off with flour, as we’ve seen done at the farm we buy our produce from.”
“Another reason people should eat organically is to ensure that the produce they eat is of quality and has the right genetic make,” said Crawford. “Altered produce has not yet been studied, and surely it can’t be as good for us as the original product.”
Marks said she tries her best to purchase top quality ingredients and that she appreciates the work the farmers put into it. “I love that I have the option of buying organic ingredients. It makes me feel better about myself, and I think it will end up helping me in the long run.”
Rawlicious has 10 locations across Ontario, including Toronto, Guelph, Hamilton, Newmarket, Barrie, Kitchener, Burlington, Markham and Whitby. They use all organic ingredients and serve raw vegan food.
Taylor Horner, also a first-year student in pre-health sciences, said her family likes to eat organically whenever they can because of things that they’ve learned about GMOs. “I don’t like to think about genetically modified foods,” Horner said. “If farms stopped using that and produced their fruits and vegetables like what was originally intended, the world would still be fed.”
Organic food cannot be grown in every environment and soil. A lot of organic produce that is imported into Canada is from warmer climates in the U.S. and Africa. The Canadian environment is more difficult to rely on for produce because of its never-ending changing weather. Twenty-nine per cent of the world’s organic land is in Europe. Spain, Italy and Germany each have over a million hectares of dedicated organically grown lands.
Horner said she wishes that Conestoga College had organic food to offer. “Even if we just sold organic apples or oranges, I think people would appreciate that. I’m sure there’s organic local farms that the school could get supplies from. I just don’t think people realize that the food they are eating isn’t good for them. GMOs and non-organic food needs to be talked about more. Organic produce is important and I don’t know if people will ever realize that.”