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ENVI Committee Meeting

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[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Tuesday, December 7, 1999

• 0859


The Chairman (The Hon. Charles Caccia (Davenport, Lib.)): Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Pursuant to Standing Order 108 (2), we're continuing our study of the performance of the Pest Management Regulatory Agency in preventing pollution and in protecting the environment and human health.

• 0900


We welcome our witnesses this morning in this series of hearings. We intend to complete the hearings before Christmas, so as to produce a report in February. As some of you may know, we started this process in May.

Today, we are very honoured and pleased to have with us Eleanor Heise, the president of the Canadian Organic Growers, from Shawville; Mr. Allen Graff, the president of the Canadian Organic Advisory Board, who came all the way from Vulcan, Alberta; Dr. Peter Stonehouse, a research officer at the University of Guelph; and last but not least, from the Université Laval, but presently on a sabbatical at Oxford, Dr. Jeremy McNeil.

Dr. McNeil is here before us, colleagues, because there is a possible link between monocultures and insect infestations, so to say. It is an issue that has attracted the attention of entomologists and others for several decades, and it would be important to know whether there are links between intensive and extensive cultivations and the presence of certain types of insects encouraged by the monocultural technologies.

We will invite our witnesses to make a brief presentation. So that we can have a good round of questions, if each presentation could possibly be kept to within 10 minutes, it would be very helpful.

Ms. Heise, would you like to be the first?

Ms. Eleanor Heise (President, Canadian Organic Growers): Thank you. I'd be delighted.

I think first we should say what “organic” is. “Organic” means growing with no pesticides, no artificial fertilizer, and no genetically engineered components.

Organic growers regard the land and its cultivation as an integral component of the earth's ecosystem. We are serious professional farmers whose children look forward to continuing with the family farm. The consumption of organic foods is increasing in Canada by approximately 1.5% a year, and demand is beginning to outstrip supply. Our livelihood is being threatened by pesticide use and by genetically engineered crops.

Agriculture must be the foundation of rural areas. The current model of agribusiness results in the death of rural life. In Canada, the average consumer spends 10% of their income on food, and the farmer gets 1%. Farmers are the most squeezable link in the food chain. We watch as prairie farmers go bankrupt while listening to pesticide and biotechnology companies tout their products as the solution for more successful crops and cheaper food. It is a myth that farming must depend on pesticides to produce enough food to sustain our population. Applying these chemicals should be a last resort for all farmers, not just organic growers, and farmers are not taught that there are alternatives.

The industrialization, specialization, enormous size, standardization, and centralization of agriculture makes the land work like a factory without a roof. Agriculture industry managers use pesticides and biotech in order to manage more acres. This system fails to take into consideration issues of biodiversity, soil, water and air quality, and sustainable land management techniques. Factory farming results in soil degeneration: herbicides exterminate the flora and insecticides exterminate the fauna of its microsystems.

Any gains in the quantity of crops resulting from pesticide use are balanced by the cost of pesticides, and often they are just an actual net loss to our farmers. There is certainly a net loss of soil viability. Pesticide use also breaks down the immune systems of plants, and they lose their natural resilience to pests and diseases. The more you use, the more you need.

• 0905

Insecticide, herbicide and fungicide use is contaminating farm wells and local water tables, and, from them, the underground aquifers that move around the world. We're therefore all affected.

This current system has resulted in the loss of small and medium-sized family farms. Communities have broken down. There are bankruptcies and suicides. It's obvious that the current model of agriculture is not environmentally or socially sustainable.

As for pesticide use, pesticide spray drift endangers the livelihood of organic farmers. We have strict regulations for organic certification, and if any trace of a pesticide or genetically engineered plant is found, the farmer loses certification and must spend at least three years in reproving that their operation is organic.

One-third of plants need to be pollinated by insects. Pesticide applications don't take that into consideration. When we eliminate an insect, we inherit its job. Because of widespread spraying, indigenous bees, of which there are hundreds of species—I'm sure we'll hear about this—are becoming rare, and honey bees are in jeopardy. Organic farming depends on a balance of insect populations. Some insects predate the pests that devour crops, and we encourage them with balanced planting and by providing wild refuges for them. Other beneficial insects and soil organisms are killed by pesticide application and micro-ecosystems are disrupted.

Pesticide use results in resistance, so they have a limited period of usefulness. Continuous escalation of the variety and strength of new pesticides compounds each consequence. A good example of this is the malarial mosquito, which has evolved to be resistant even to DDT. The disease is now more rampant than ever, and we may even see malaria returning to Canada.

Pesticide residues in food are an ongoing health concern. These days, an apple a day can equal a trip to the doctor. Each conventionally produced apple contains at least 24 types of pesticide residues. It's important to note that even insecticides and herbicides, whose active ingredient breaks down in a matter of hours, leave residues. According to standard health and environmental pesticide testing, it's only the active ingredient that is examined, not the remainder of the ingredients. We don't know if they have environmental or health effects, or what the cumulative effects of a variety of pesticide residues is going to do to us and to our animals' health.

Genetically engineered crops are not a substitute for pesticides, as is claimed. Most have been developed so that farmers use more pesticides, because both are owned by the same industries, of course. For example, a heavy application of glyphosate—whose trade name is Roundup, which now has been proven to be carcinogenic to both women and men—is applied before planting Roundup-ready canola, which is one of Canada's main export crops, or has been. This herbicide kills all plants in the field and many organisms in the soil, but the canola can survive. These canola plants have also escaped, have hybridized with non-GE canola and have contaminated adjacent farms, and they are another threat to organic farming.

Agritech companies have little interest in breeding plants with long-term sustainable pest and disease resistance. Conventionally bred plants are only selected for their yield rather than their overall healthiness, and are produced on the assumption that farmers will automatically apply insecticides and herbicides to their crops. Plants that are genetically engineered against pests rely on single-gene resistance that is expected to break down in a matter of a few years.

Genetically engineered potatoes and corn contain a gene from the micro-organism Bacillus thuringiensis, Bt, which allows the cells within these treated plants to produce an insecticide normally produced by the bacillus. This insecticide is an endotoxin that destroys the cells lining the intestines of the insect, thereby killing it. This material is designed to damage intestinal cells, and studies have shown damage in the intestines of rats. Other studies have shown damage in the intestines of humans.

Within a few years of the Bt toxin's introduction, new generations of resistant insects will have evolved. Bt has been a useful tool for organic farmers. Genetically engineered Bt will result in insects that evolve to be resistant to it, thus this tool is lost to our growers.

• 0910

In fact, the one major result of the use of pesticides in farming is to increase the profit of the corporations that manufacture them.

The breakthroughs of modern science are exciting, but they are miraculous only within a tiny focus. They are not put in the context of their implications or long-term consequences. No responsibility for unforeseen results is taken. The government must regulate for long-term, independent testing for any new product. New bio-engineered plants and new artificial pesticides require the same standards for testing as do new drugs. Drugs are rigorously examined even when their potential use is by a tiny proportion of us all, whereas GE plants and pesticides are examined only by the company that produces them, although they affect all of us. DDT and thalidomide are examples of testing within a timeframe that was not long enough. More hard, long-term, independent data on the effects of pesticides and genetically engineered plants, both on people as well as animals in the ecosystem, is needed.

Two weeks ago, I listened to a farmer talk of a neighbouring family. A mother who's now 93 had eighteen sons. They were always keen to use the latest methods, and were heavy pesticide users. In those days, and probably now, farmers blew out the nozzles of their spray tubes with their mouths, and didn't bother with much if any protective clothing. All eighteen sons died of cancer.

Because pesticides are dangerous, they need to be regulated. Please see Charles Benbrook's book Pest Management at the Crossroads, in which he states that the U.S. spent $1.2 billion in 1997 just for regulating pesticide use. Canada spends a proportional amount. Instead of spending money on regulating the use of detrimental chemicals, surely we could spend it on finding alternatives to their use.

We also challenge the ethics of exporting pesticides to the developing world. The developing country model is small-scale subsistence farming, with low cashflow. Developing country farmers must not be forced to depend on expensive pesticides to produce a crop.

Additionally, the mantra that pesticides and GE will save the world from starvation is demonstrably false. There is not a problem with lack of food production, as our prairie farmers can attest, but rather a lack of cash to buy food, lack of access to land or water to grow food, inequitable food distribution, and politics in the third world. The real need there is for land reform, for learning sustainable agriculture, and for the achievement of self-sufficiency. Health issues of the ecosystem and of humans as part of the ecosystem must be our primary consideration.

I'd like to talk a bit about the sustainable alternative. It is possible.

Organic farmers enjoy managing their land for complexity and solving farming issues creatively. Together with making a comfortable income, we know we are leaving the land in condition that's as good as, and usually better than, when we started farming it. Sustainable farming is a deeply satisfying way of life. Organic farming intensifies rather than controls natural processes in order to increase production and gain higher yields. It respects the health of humans, other species, and ecosystems. It emphasizes quality, not quantity of production.

We succeed in growing successful crops by paying careful attention to building our soil and balancing our operations. Different plants require different soil nutrients, so we are careful to rotate crops, not growing the same thing in the same place for more than one season. Legumes like peas, beans, and clovers manufacture one of the main nutrients of plants, nitrogen, so we grow them in the rotation about every third year.

Our growing techniques result in strong plants that have natural resistance. Yes, plants have their own immune systems, just like humans do. Increasing numbers of organic growers are saving their own seeds from their strongest plants, which have thrived in their individual and regional climates and soil conditions. Building banks of seeds with different characteristics is adding to the genetic diversity pool, as opposed to the monoculture, mono-variety growing found in agribusiness that is resulting in less and less diversity and increasing the risk of large-scale annihilation by disease.

• 0915

Each region of Canada has different growing conditions and variable pest and disease problems. Educating farmers to participate in local plant breeding results in crops that are specifically adapted to these conditions. Seed saving and small-scale plant breeding are key in reducing insecticide, herbicide, and fungicide use.

An excellent example of this is the Loos family farm in Prince Edward Island. They have bred a potato variety, Island Sunshine, which is naturally resistant to potato blight, and they don't need to spray at all.

For weed control, organic farmers grow cover crops such as rye grass and clover, which grow faster than the weeds, thus choking them out. Rye grass is also allopathetic, which means it inhibits the growth of other plants. Later in the growing season, weeds are controlled by cultivation. Herbicides are not necessary.

Another useful technique is companion planting. Certain crops enhance each other's growth, such as tomatoes and basil, and corn and beans. In the field, Saskatchewan farmers are having a lot of success with wheat underseeded with clover. Weeds can't compete effectively.

Please compare the mountains of stinking manure produced on animal factory farms with organic farming, where that commodity is a valuable tool. It's sterilized in the heat of a composting process and used for soil-building. Because there's no smelly runoff of slurry pesticides or artificial fertilizer, the water around organic farms remains sweet.

Concern about stewardship and sustainable growing of the land is very deeply felt. It translates to a commitment to an enhanced rural lifestyle. Because organic agriculture is management intensive, more jobs are preserved for local people, and because organic food is not permeated with pesticides, it tastes wonderful.

The Chair: Could you conclude, please?

Ms. Eleanor Heise: Yes. I think you have this presentation.

Perhaps you can read what I've written about the research granting system and the government funding for the biotech industry, which is probably at a proportion of 400:1, or 500:1, as opposed to funding for the organic system.

I just would like to talk a little bit about soil. It's the basis of organic growing, which is dependent on good soil. Soil is immensely complex. There are 100,000 mites in one square metre of soil; 10,000 biota species in four cups of soil; and a huge quantity and variety of other organisms, such as algae, nematodes, fungi, bacteria, and viruses. It's a living complex biosystem.

I'll just skip through the rest and talk to you a little bit about what organic agriculture needs by way of support, and I hope you'll pass this along to your colleagues on the agriculture committee.

Organic agriculture is a sustainable, viable alternative to the unsustainable conventional model that depends on pesticide use. We encourage this committee to recommend to all ministries and levels of government that the alternative be actively encouraged.

The following points outline what is needed to develop a higher level of participation in organic production in Canada.

We need faculties of organic agriculture, and curriculum development. We don't have much, if any, of these things or supports. We need support for conventional farmers wishing to convert to organic. Many would, but they can't afford to. We need support for research into optimum varieties of each crop for each region, and at least two organic demonstration farms in each region. We also need market development, segregation facilities, and support for the development of an organic processed food industry. The potential for development of this industry is enormous.

This committee's concern is for sustainable economic development. The current model of farming as agribusiness, using pesticides, synthetic fertilizer, and now genetically engineered crops, which has proliferated only in the last 50 years, is not sustainable. Organic agriculture is viable and sustainable. Pesticides are not necessary to grow enough crops to feed the world, or for profitable farming. Organic agriculture is the alternative, and should be given maximum support and promotion.

I have a small show and tell. I dug out a sample of soil from my farm. This first one is an area that I have been cultivating. I'm doing quite an intensive vegetable-growing operation, where I teach how to be self-sufficient in growing organic vegetables. This is the soil that I've been growing with. This is soil from another part of the farm that's only in hay and hasn't been touched—I haven't been cultivating it. I'd like to pass these around for you to look at. You can see that we tend the soil and we care for it as a priority.

• 0920

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Heise. It was a very interesting approach.

Mr. Graff, would you like to be next, please?

Mr. Allen Graff (President, Canadian Organic Advisory Board): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

First of all, I'd like to describe where I come from. I come from southern Alberta, which is an area that is very windy and almost semi-arid. My farm is totally organic and my farm size is just slightly under 3,000 acres. I've been farming organically there since about 1984, and so far—and I think they probably will in the future—my yields and my soils have been increasing in productivity along the way.

The title of my presentation is “Linking Policy to Action”. I represent the Canadian Organic Advisory Board, which is a board that has representation from all across Canada.

Over the past century, food production and agricultural development policies have become increasingly dependent upon intensive agricultural systems that demand the high inputs of inorganic fertilizers, synthetic pesticides, and pharmaceuticals in an effort to achieve high productivity and to reduce the result of a loss attributable to pests and disease. These practices and policies have contributed significantly to agricultural productivity in Canada, yet excessive production and falling agrifood prices, coupled with escalating costs for non-renewable off-farm inputs has led to the overall decrease in farm income in many agricultural sectors in the past decade.

With mounting empirical evidence that intensive high-input production systems accelerate the decline of soil fertility, reduce the efficacy of synthetic pesticides in managing pests, and impact negatively on overall environmental quality and human health, it is not surprising that the sustainability of the modern agricultural system throughout the world has become a subject of great concern to government policy-makers, academics, sector reps, and consumers alike.

The dramatic growth of organic agriculture throughout the developed world over the past two decades is largely a direct response of consumers exerting choice to perceived problems within the modern system of agricultural food production. Diminished consumer confidence in quality assurance within such systems has generated a discernible long decline in the market share of agrifood products in the early 1990s in some sectors. Increased acreage under organic production systems in Canada is directly linked to market demand, rather than a restructuring of political, economic, scientific, and technical support to support more sustainable systems in agriculture, which predominates agricultural policy within Europe. In other words, they have a financial reward for going into organic production. We in Canada have been able to do it through our own efforts.

Under a holistic or systems approach to achieve sustainable development, organic agricultural systems have many specific attributes that challenge the paradigm of modern agriculture and pest management systems. In view of the mandate of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, the Canadian Organic Advisory Board strongly believes that revisionist policy toward the future management and use of synthetic pesticides in Canada must address the significant contributions that organic agricultural systems have made and continue to provide in de-emphasizing the role of external inputs for pest management as the only means to increase food production.

• 0925

Turning to barriers to sustainable pest management, the rationales for substituting natural pest control processes and resources in agriculture for external inputs over the past five decades are numerous and complex. Historically, agricultural development has been dominated by short-run project analyses and the search for quick solutions to developing problems. Synthetic pesticides have generally replaced biological, cultural, and mechanical methods of pest management. Inorganic fertilizers have supplanted manures, composts, and nitrogen-fixing crops. As a direct consequence of this dependence, knowledge and information for on-farm management decisions have been largely displaced from local sources to input suppliers.

With the industrialization of agriculture along these lines, agents, researchers, and agricultural policy have reinforced the need for external inputs in the pursuit for greater market share, technological advantage, and cheaper food. Given such views, practices that promote and enhance crop and livestock health diversity and optimal yield—which are directly related to disease and pest resistance—have been sidelined in favour of practices that encourage monocultures with maximized yield that are, in turn, more susceptible to disease and pest outbreak.

The adverse consequence of the short view in this economic policy carries a high price, as witnessed by the rapid and continuous deployment of external inputs into agricultural systems when pests develop increasing tolerance, resistance, and cross-resistance to synthetic pesticides. This price is further elevated when beneficial and non-target organisms become more susceptible and less effective as a consequence.

Given the dependence of high levels of external inputs required in such systems, it is indeed challenging to unseat conventional dogma from the need for a volume of such synthetic pesticides. This dependency is further strengthened by the continuing modern view that through the recent pursuit of transgenic biology, the dynamics within the agro-ecosystem can be overruled rather than managed. Under this scenario, the terms of genetic drift, biomagnification, environmental contamination, pest resistance, and indirect exposure to non-target organisms may have entirely different consequences than have been witnessed with conventional synthetic pesticides.

Just to expand on that one for a second, we are very concerned that the pesticides that are used in the chemical regime have a half-life and are disposable, whereas the pesticides used in the biotech industry—in other words, becoming part of plants—are ongoing genetic features, and they're always alive.

The primary challenge for pest management within a sustainable agricultural system is to minimize the use of external inputs, alone or in combination with regenerating internal resources more effectively. Under a system of organic agriculture, this is accomplished by, first, the incorporation of a nutrient cycle, nitrogen fixation within the soil, and promoting and augmenting beneficial and natural enemies into an agro-ecosystem.

Second is reducing or eliminating off-farm, external, and non-renewable inputs with the greatest potential to negatively impact the environment, rural community, or consumers, in place of alternative pest management strategies and tactics.

Third is more productive use of phenotypic and genotypic resistance inherent in crop cultivars or livestock—that means selection of livestock and crops that are best suited to your environment.

Fourth is an attempt to balance crop cultivars and production methods with the environmental constraints of the bioregion and the agro-ecosystem in order to optimize pest resistance and yield.

• 0930

Fifth is the productive use of local knowledge and agronomic practices, including innovative approaches that may not yet be under scientific scrutiny.

Sixth is an approach to profitability and efficient production that emphasizes integrated farm management, resource and conservation, and enhancement of the natural surroundings.

On commitments to refining the policy, sustaining agricultural systems requires a much greater commitment to long-term investment in infrastructure, research, and institution-building than conventional agriculture. Currently there is a paucity of research programs or coordinated information available from federal and provincial agricultural agencies, educational institutes, and the commercial sector that promote the adoption of more organic agriculture practices at the farm level in Canada. Although the added value of organic agrifood is a significant factor in the recruitment of new producers to the organic system, barriers do exist in the transition process.

Producers motivated to convert or adapt to more sustainable pest management and production systems are significantly influenced by the perception of what effect such a shift may have on reduced or more variable yields, with the subsequent effects on resources, revenues, production, and their management systems.

Promoting the adoption of more sustainable pest management strategies can be approached from several perspectives. Reduction in pesticide use can be encouraged through penalties for misuse and environmental contamination, more stringent licensing of applicators, regulating the amount of pesticide applied through prescription-based programs monitored on the basis of need through licensed pest management specialists, or through tax added to the chemicals that are being put on the land.

Alternatively, several European communities have provided cash incentives for producers to eliminate synthetic pesticides and fertilizers from agricultural systems, in programs integrated with agricultural and environmental policy. These incentives have dramatically expanded the hectarage of agricultural land converted to organic production throughout Europe, broadened the knowledge base among many producers and consumers, and increased the volume of certified organic products available for export.

The Canadian organic sector, by comparison, does not have subsidized programs to date that strengthen the promotion of the organic agrifood sector. In fact, agricultural policy that prioritizes or provides incentives or other subsidies for agricultural research and development on short-term, high-gain pest management tactics can have harmful side effects to the continued growth of the organic sector by deflecting funds available for sponsoring pest management research based within long-term sustainable agricultural systems.

Furthermore, disproportionate subsidies in the development of some synthetic pesticide tactics have the potential to directly undermine the integrity of organic production systems through the added risk of contamination and expense in verification, unless alternative strategies and tactics are developed and promoted.

On future directions, in conjunction with the national guidelines for the production, processing, handling, and labelling of organic foods, COAB strongly believes that a nationally accredited certification system and continued industry leadership will make a significant contribution to the enhanced awareness and value-added promotion of Canadian organic foods nationally and internationally.

Such capabilities will serve as a driving force in the encouragement and recruitment of new producers and processors to meet the demand for organic agrifoods. In turn, economic incentives promoting the cross-sectoral development of organic agriculture and a revised federal policy will accelerate federal and provincial environmental goals especially targeted to reduce pesticide usage and promote agricultural systems that sustain agricultural production and improve environmental quality across Canada.

• 0935

With that, Mr. Chairman, I would just like to add some further words. I'd like to say how I came to farm organically.

When I was younger I succumbed to a seed treatment—a seed inoculant, if you will—to control various pests. It put me in the hospital for a very long time. I was 15 at the time, by the way. When I got out of the hospital, I swore that if there were a way I could farm without chemicals, I would find it.

Through the time, I watched, and when I was 18 or 19—that's going back into the so-called hippie years—I watched these people from the cities who were out on the farms seeking a rural experience. They were developing something called organic. At that time, because I had the perception that farmers knew how to farm, I had nothing to do with that.

I continued then to farm for another many years, almost another decade, using chemicals. It got to the point that I had to hire other people to do my herbicide applications. I was very, very sick at the time of spraying, just even from mixing the chemicals in my sprayer. So there was an ultimatum for me: leave the farm and get an off-farm job or stay and become very, very sick.

Approximately at that time, I also discovered a process called biological farming, which is under the mandate of organic farming. It is farming without chemicals. That brought me into a system of farming where I was able to manage my own inputs and continue to farm and stay in my own chosen livelihood, which is farming.

Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Graff, and also for that biographical sketch. It was very interesting.

Mr. Stonehouse, would you like to start?

Dr. Peter Stonehouse (Research Officer, Department of Agricultural Economics and Business, University of Guelph): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

As a professional agricultural economist at the University of Guelph, I would like to go on record acknowledging the great advantages and contributions that so-called conventional agriculture—which I'll define in a moment—has made to the agrifood system and on behalf of Canadian consumers.

Conventional agriculture is what I define as today's mainstream, high-intensive, high-technological, high-input type of agriculture, which requires an awful lot of inputs imported from off the farm.

The contribution that kind of agriculture has made, mostly in the last fifty years, as Allen pointed out, has been to provide us with an abundance of food, which has made it very cheap. It's generally of high quality, although one should very carefully question how one should define “quality”, because of pesticide residues in the food that may be harmful. It's also in a very convenient form, whereby consumers of food can simply reach into the freezer and put a package into the microwave oven, and that's supper prepared. It's very convenient and handy for today's busy housewife or even househusband.

The most important economic factor about all of this is that the proportion of the personal disposal income in this country that's paid for food has reached an all-time low and continues to decline. There's only one other country in the world that has a lower proportion of consumer personal disposal income spent on food, and that's the United States. So we do an awfully good job in agriculture of what we do.

• 0940

So you may say let's keep on trucking with that particular approach to agriculture. To that I say let's raise some cautionary flags and examine some of the side effects of that kind of agriculture.

It transpires—and this I've examined in fairly good depth in the limited space provided in my written report—that the high-technology, high-intensive kind of agriculture is the very same one that provides for the highest level of degradation in terms of soil depletion, soil erosion, soil compaction, organic matter depletion, buildup of pests and diseases within the system, and harmful collateral effects upon other species, providing eventually for ecological imbalance. On top of the environmental degradation and the ecological imbalance, then quite possibly there are harmful side effects to human consumers of food through the consumption of traces of these pesticides that are used in the production, processing, and preservation of food on the store shelves in the likes of Loblaws and Safeway across the country.

So, to be sure, we have some good points with respect to traditional agriculture, but we also have some harmful ones, which are very well worth noting.

Back in the mid-1980s, I therefore posed the question, is there a better way to go with respect to farming, production of food? So I sought funding to examine alternative ways of farming. One of the diagrams I've included in my printed document shows we can think of a continuum of farming systems all the way from the conventional, which I've already defined, right through to the organic farming approach, which has been well-defined for me by my two colleagues, so I don't need to go into definitions of what organic farming entails. In between those two extremes, we have a continuum of all kinds of varying degrees of intensity and high-technology approaches to agriculture, including low-input sustainable agriculture—LISA, they call it in the United States—integrated pest management, and other approaches.

What I sought to do through research work was to pose the question and find the answers to the question, how profitable are different types of farming systems across that spectrum? I couldn't look at them all. I chose instead to look at three points in the spectrum: the two extremes of conventional agriculture and organic agriculture on either wing, and what I defined as reduced-input agriculture somewhere in the middle. Reduced-input agriculture would be defined as any way of reducing the application of synthetic chemical pesticides in the production and processing of food.

I sought funding from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food in the mid-1980s and obtained funding through the Food Systems 2002 program, which was a very interesting and rather courageous and ambitious program by the Ontario Liberals of the late 1980s, designed to reduce the application and usage of chemical pesticides in the agricultural system in Ontario by one-half by the year 2002, hence the term Food Systems 2002.

I have an idea after the fact that if they in the Ontario ministry had known what the outcome of this research work would have been, they may never have awarded me the funding in the first place. It turned out to be rather controversial and indeed surprised me.

• 0945

I started out with a hypothesis, a simple statement of what I thought was going to be the outcome, based on deductive logic a priori, or before the fact, of doing the research work. The hypothesis was that organic agriculture would turn out to be the least intensive, low-input but low-output, the least productive, and probably therefore the least profitable form of farming system across this spectrum.

Well, to the contrary, I found quite different results. More about that in a few minutes.

I concentrated in particular, in terms of the synthetic pesticide applications in agriculture, on herbicides. Why? Because herbicides comprise about 68%—or did in those days, in the late 1980s—of the total chemical usage in Ontario agriculture, which as you know is fairly intensive by virtue of the concentration on intensive farming products, such as poultry, dairy, and horticulture.

So I thought if I could further concentrate and focus my attention on the mainstream crops that used the most of the herbicides, which are used to control weeds, then I was getting at a key part of pesticide usage in agriculture.

I cast around for some published data based on previous research work by biological scientists, for as every good economist will acknowledge, his/her data in economics are only as good as the underpinning or underlying biophysical data used to support them. There were none.

This brings me to reinforce a point I heard both Eleanor and Allen make before me: that research support for organic farming systems is just about zero in this country—just about zero—unlike the European Union countries, which not only support a very active research program into organic farming techniques and reduced input systems, and the infrastructure to support those kinds of farming techniques through extension advisory help, but also subsidize the transfer of farmers from the conventional process or technique into organic systems. They subsidize them across there, in Europe.

We support nothing. Within the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, we have one half-person per annum of time allocated to the pursuit of organic farming and helping organic farmers—one half-person's time.

I couldn't find any published data. So then what was I to do? I selected farmers in this spectrum of farming systems, and I was able to find very few organic farmers, because there weren't very many, and not all of those were prepared to assist me in my research work. Hearing that I came from Guelph, the bastion of conventional agriculture in Ontario, and some would argue in Canada, they said “What have you done for us organic farmers recently?” And I had to admit, very little if anything. But I said “I'm here to try to establish some truths about the profitability of alternative systems. Will you come on board?” I finally persuaded nine organic farmers to come on board.

So I selected, with the help of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture officials, nine reduced-input farmers and nine conventional farmers. I went out and surveyed each of these farmers at some length and in some depth and obtained all their technical as well as economics data, and indeed some data on the environmental side, environmental degradation.

To cut a long story short, I'll summarize, Mr. Chairman, the major findings of that—

The Chair: You're referring to table 3 of your paper, I presume, are you?

Dr. Peter Stonehouse: Yes, that's correct. All of those tables in fact provide useful information about how these three systems compared with one another.

• 0950

It transpired that if one focuses on just the weed control costs by virtue of the different methods, organic farmers spent far more. Their costs were much higher than those of conventional or reduced-input farmers for the three focus crops we emphasized of corn, bean crops, and fall cereal grain crops, such as winter wheat, fall rye, and spelt. There's a good reason for this. Organic farmers must spend an awful lot of time and attention to alternatives to reaching for the chemical bottle, which is just so easy for the conventional farmer to do and which entails a much lower cost.

So what about all the other costs of production for all the other materials that are used to produce crops, including labour, machinery applications, and so forth, for seeding, fertilizing, cultivating after the crop has emerged from the ground, harvesting, storing, etc.? When I added up all of these costs of production, it turned out that the organic farmers had the great advantage of vastly lower costs of production in total. So although the weed control costs in isolation were much higher, the overall direct costs of production were much lower, and significantly so, in a statistical sense.

The reduced-input farmers were somewhere in between. They did indeed save on some costs of production in total compared with the conventional farmers.

Couple, then, the lower costs of production with the higher unit prices of products that organic farmers have managed to obtain in the marketplace and comparable yields.... This was an interesting point that negated my original hypothesis. I thought that the yields of organic farmers would be much lower. No, they're not. They're fairly comparable. If you take comparable yields, higher unit prices, and lower costs of production, guess what? The profits came out very much in favour of the organic farming system.

Who was trailing the pack? It was the vast majority of Canada's farmers who belong to the conventional category.

I was roundly criticized, as I've stated in that written document, for my approaches. People said “You had a very small sample, and by the way, your sample included all kinds of farmers who did or did not have livestock enterprises belonging to them. So you were comparing apples with oranges with bananas, weren't you?” So I said “Yes, indeed, but to the extent that you can do any comparisons of systems that are so totally different in terms of their underlying philosophy as well as their procedures in management, then I did the best I could.”

Nevertheless, I turned to a round two of research work that was more carefully designed in terms of choosing conventional farmers and organic farmers, with all of them being dairy farmers. That was the common factor. Plus, they all came from the same region of southern Ontario so that they all had a like natural resource base and infrastructure base.

This was data based on the early 1990s and preceded, therefore, the premium prices paid under the Dairy Farmers of Ontario marketing scheme to organic dairy farmers for their product in the marketplace. That has been extant only since I did this research work. So all the dairy farmers, whichever system they belonged to, were receiving the same price.

Once again it transpired that it was the organic farmers enjoying a much lower cost of production per hectolitre of milk supplied to the marketplace compared with the conventional farmers that did the trick in wresting for them a significantly higher profit level for the organic way of producing milk. Now, this is a telling—

The Chair: Can I ask you to come to your conclusion, please.

• 0955

Dr. Peter Stonehouse: Yes. If we can make some concluding comments about all of this, it turns out that one doesn't need to be high intensive and high technology in approach with regard to the use of pesticides in the farming and food processing system in order to be profitable. You can be just as profitable, in fact more profitable, to go the reduced-input route, and almost as profitable if you were to go the organic route. So farmers have nothing to be afraid of in terms of turning to organic agriculture except for the fact that the government does not support their case. There's no infrastructure to support organic farmers, as there is in the European Union and coming in the United States of America.

I think we're missing the boat in terms of growing markets not just in Canada, as Allen Graff might have pointed out, but also abroad, especially in the European Union. They insist that all of our products labelled organic be organic. They need to be certifiable. Thankfully, we crossed that hurdle this last spring by the establishment of a national standard for organically produced food.

That, to my mind, is the future of organic agriculture in Canada, and it may be the future for agriculture in general. I see the market growing for organically produced food, and I see it declining for conventionally produced food based on the human health damage potential. I'll call it potential because it's not clear yet exactly what that damage is, certainly according to the environmental degradation and the ecological imbalance.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The Chair: Thank you, Dr. Stonehouse.

Professor McNeil, please.


Prof. Jeremy McNeil (Professor of Biology, Laval University): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I teach biology at Laval University and I have been working for over 30 years in the field of ecology, specifically studying insect behavior with a view to finding alternative pest management techniques.


You've already heard about the impact of practices in agriculture over the last 50 years. Of course, what we have gone into is very large surfaces, extremely simplified, and not just within the farm fields themselves but also the surroundings. Hedgerows and things like that, which are extremely important from an ecological perspective, do not exist anywhere as much as they used to. This is an extremely detrimental ecological aspect of it.

One has to consider how what we call agro-ecosystems differ from natural ecosystems, and there are several ways.

The first one is species diversity. When you go out into a forest or a normal field, you will see an extremely high number of species of plant. You do not see that in many agro-ecosystems. There may be one or a very limited number of species. So diversity is a problem.

The second thing you have is genetic diversity, where we select for a strain that gives high yield and has certain characteristics. But when you go into natural ecosystems, you find a very wide diversity within a given species of their genetics, which is something that has an impact.

The third thing you have is phenological diversity. When you go out into a forest, you may see many spruce trees or many birch trees, but they're not all the same age. They're not all at the same stage of development. If you go into a crop, you see that they're all the same size and at exactly the same stage of development. Depending on the stage of development, that will determine how susceptible they are to any form of pest, be it a pathogen or an insect. Of course I'm more specialized in insects. So you have to think about this.

For example, in forests in Canada the spruce budworm is a major pest. By preference it attacks old trees, and of course we want the larger older trees. In an ecological sense, spruce budworm epidemics would be very good because they would eliminate the old trees and cause regeneration of forests. Unfortunately, we now have a conflict between what we want and what they want, so that's where you get into it.

The other one that very many people forget is sustainability in time or continuity. Going from a field to a forest, you have normal successional processes. In agriculture we do not. They may in many cases just be three or four months. Of course that has a problem in terms of normal ecological balance, which will happen in normal ecosystems. Between the insect pests, the plants, the natural enemies, and so on and so forth, you never really get a chance to get to an equilibrium.

• 1000

So what we have is this monoculture. People will always turn back and say, but there are natural monocultures. If you go farther north into the tundra, you may find very simplified ones. But they are diverse. They're diverse genetically and in the phenological aspects of them, so they're not as simplified as agro-ecosystems.

Basically, you have this wonderful thing of a natural ecosystem versus the monocultures. I suppose the best way to describe it would be to use an analogy with electrical lines. In the natural ecosystem you have a whole series of sources among different levels. You have the soil, the plants, the herbivores that eat them, and the things that eat the herbivores. So you have several levels. One could imagine in Canada a large number of hydroelectric stations north, middle, and south. But there's a network among all of the different systems so that if one line breaks down, the other ones can take up the slack. So the system maintains a relative balance.

But if you have a system where you have the plant, one or two insects, and one or two natural enemies, if one of those links breaks down, then the energy doesn't flow properly through the system, and you get chaos. That's basically what one sees in many agro-ecosystems.

Many agro-ecosystems are highly susceptible to pathogens and so on because of the characteristics we've just talked about. When you get a herbivore coming in that can exploit this resource, obviously it's maximum reproduction of the pest and massive growth. Because of this discontinuity, not many of its natural enemies are there. They have to come in, and there's a time lag. So what you see is an explosion in the population and high defoliation, and then you lose crops and you have a problem.

So what we have done is spray. Chemical insecticides have been a saviour in many places. I don't think one should undermine or negate the benefits humankind has obtained from the use of chemical insecticides.

But there are also problems, and we must remember this as we get into this sort of treadmill-type system. For example, when I was a graduate student, I worked on a very important agricultural crop that I would consider a weed, and that is tobacco. I had a crop where I actually didn't spray, and I had less than 4% defoliation in a crop of exactly the same planting date that was sprayed once. Where there were two generations of the pest, we actually had 100% defoliation because we eliminated the pest but we also eliminated all of its natural enemies. The pest is a very large moth that can fly several tens of kilometres in a night. They reinvaded. The natural enemies, which are very small, took much longer. By the time they got there, it was too late. So you have these problems.

You also have the development of resistance, and we've heard about this. One must realize that in many insects there is not resistance because it is more or less a genetically predisposed one at a very low level, and you select for it. There are no really good examples of it spontaneously occurring.

There is cross-resistance among insecticides. You have the direct off-target effects on pollinators, beneficial insects, human health, and so on. You have ecological effects. It gets into water systems. You have the old DDT biomagnification of the hydrocarbons, which go up the food chain and get concentrated. Those are problems. Those insecticides are not used any more.

You have the impact on community structure. When I talk to children, I like to pretend I'm an insect, and I tell them that we are the food of the world because so many other organisms rely on insects. So if you spray, you get rid of insects, but you are actually removing food for fish, birds, and so on and so forth.

So there are reasons, and we know this, why we should be reducing the use of insecticides.

One thing we must accept is that many of the problems we face are due to the misuse and abuse of insecticides. I have had farmers who have been told they must spray four ounces per hectare, and then I find out they sprayed with ten ounces per hectare in case it would work better. I said, “Would you do this when you take medication? If the doctor says take two pills a day, would you take 10? They can actually kill you in a dose that is higher than prescribed.”

You also have people who take what's called preventive action. They say they may have a problem, so they spray regularly. We have an example of this in Canada that is absolutely incredible, where people will have herbicides and pesticides sprayed on their lawns three times a summer as a preventive action whether or not they have pests.

• 1005

We have been part of the problem ourselves, and we must realize this. If we don't, we must change.

There are moves afoot to reduce even in conventional farming. There are systems-monitoring systems where you actually tell the farmers, “There is a pest problem now; you should think about intervening” or, in another case, “You don't have enough insects to worry; why spend $100 to save $12 worth of crop loss? It's illogical.” We have what are called scouts, who farmers will hire collectively, who go out and advise the farmers when and how they should intervene. That is actually reducing the insecticides.

However, we have to think of alternatives, and we must realize we're looking at a dynamic system. It's not like saying all of a sudden one cannot wear running shoes; running shoes are banned; we will remove them; everybody can go to Sears or wherever else and buy a pair of leather shoes. We're talking about a dynamic system. We have to look for alternatives that will not always work, not every year in the same place or in the same year between places. We really have to understand the systems we wish to manage.

When I was a graduate student in the late 1960s, that hippie era—great fun—the first world symposium on integrated pest management was organized by the man I was doing my PhD with. Integrated pest management has been around for several decades. The goal is to find ecologically, sociologically, and economically acceptable means of controlling pests. You have to take all of them into account. You want high productivity, high quality, and sustainability. In IPM, they have a whole series of approaches that could be used unilaterally or combined.

We've heard mention of plant resistance. Of course, in the old days, it was selecting, and we heard that the organic growers do this now. They keep the seeds of the ones that grow better. That's exactly what agriculture has been doing for hundreds of years. This is not new.

Now we have the transgenics. I realize this is a very sensitive subject, so I won't really get into it, but it is not a permanent solution either. You put resistant plants out in the field, and the insects that are attacking them, the pathogens that are attacking them, are living organisms; there will be selection.

For example, with aphids, probably a resistant variety doesn't last for more than four or five years before one of them gets through and finds a way to overcome it. It has been referred to as the “ecological arms race”. You become more resistant, and I find a way to go over it. It's this checkers sort of game.

We use pathogens. Insects, just like us, are affected by diseases. You have viruses—and everybody goes, “Oh my goodness, you can't use a virus; what's going to happen?” Insect viruses are totally different from viruses of mammals, and they are being used in certain cases. They occur naturally. I've lost a whole research project that I was funded to do for ecology. It ended up getting totally wiped out because of a virus.

We can use fungi; we can use bacteria. We've heard about Bt. People start going on that this is terrible; what happens with the fungi and the bacteria? We may have problems. To that, I always respond by saying that I agree we must think about it, but stop eating yogurt and stop eating Stilton cheese, for a start, because fungi and bacteria are involved in those. We've been using it in beer and wine. Forget about it all.

Natural enemies are another one we wish to use. Those are the parasitoids, the predators, and they are really good. We can introduce them. There are companies in Canada that are quite well into this, rearing and providing natural enemies that you can introduce to increase the density at the beginning. As I told you, there's a time lag. You have the crop grow, the pests come in, and then the natural enemies, but it may be too late before you can really do it.

One of the problems, of course, is this break in time, annual crops, and so on, and the removal of all the surrounding areas, the hedgerows, because these insects and the pollinators.... It's not just when your crop is there; they have to have pollen at other times of the year. If you remove all of that, they will come in for a while and then die or move out. So we have to have this diversity and we have to think about it.

There are cultural practices. We know about cultural practices.

Actually, back to the natural enemies, we've heard about resistance, and one of the things that are being exploited is selecting for resistance to insecticides, if they're necessary, in the natural enemies so they are less susceptible to the insecticide than the pest. So if you have to use an insecticide, it gets rid of part of the insect pest, and the natural enemies, because they are unaffected, will hopefully do the rest.

• 1010

There are cultural practices. We've heard about crop rotation. That works. However, it doesn't always work, because one thing you must remember is that an insect is capable of moving. A pathogen is capable of being dispersed throughout the system. If you have an insect that can fly ten kilometres and you rotate within two kilometres, it's just a couple of days until they find it. They're extremely good. If I had to bet against them or us, I'd always bet against them. Although I think we're quite intelligent, there's just a lot of them and they are very well adapted.

Mixed cropping is another way that one can do it, and reduced tillage. Reduced tillage is actually an interesting idea for reduced erosion, and so on and so forth. The only problem is that you have to know what your insects are, and there's a reason for that. Certain insects actually prefer to lay on ground that has been broken up and has been cultivated. Others don't like that; they like the one that's compacted, where there's a nice mat of vegetation. So depending on where you are and what the insect pests are, one or the other may be accentuating insect problems. But you have to understand what you're dealing with.

We have things called growth regulators that are the equivalent of the hormones in the insects, juvenile hormones—I take this regularly, with hope. However, they are actually involved in the moulting process of insects. The idea is that if you could disrupt their moulting process, they would start and then you would get rid of them. They can also affect reproduction. The only problem is there's an awful lot of other invertebrates that use juvenile hormone-like things, and therefore you have to be very careful about their use. At the present time, they're limited to things like greenhouses, and so on.

One of the things I work on is behaviour modifying compounds. Those are ones that occur naturally, and we call them things like pheromones. They're info-chemicals, which living organisms use to gain and transfer information—for example, one likes cabbages; one doesn't like onions. There are chemical messages in this, and so do the insects recognize them.

We have pheromones, for example, that are to find a mate. It's like a perfume. We use those to develop monitoring systems. They are within a species, so we do terrible things and we put out pseudo-females and we track the moths that I work on. We can then say either this is how we can manage them—you have to spray now because there are lots—or we can disrupt them.

But the thing is we really have to do it—and we can include insecticides. But is IPM a magic bullet? The answer is no, it isn't. None of it is a magic bullet where we're dealing with living systems. We must understand them and work with them, and this is not a one-shot deal.

We need to develop farm strategies—there are people who do this—where you look at the entire farm. You look at the slope, the type of soil, and so on, and you manage. What is the best rotation practice? What should you grow there? When should you use the nitrogen-fixing crops, and so on? So those can be done.

The last thing is public education. I speak a lot to children because I think it's important. But we are so fixed on the cosmetically beautiful apple. It's absolutely incredible.

I'll close with the memory of my great-grandmother when I was a child. All I remember is that her apple pies were marvellous. But I remember her sitting in the kitchen cutting out the codling moth. The apple pie was great. All she needed was a knife to get rid of the little bit.

If we could change that mentality as well, we would go a long way to having a sustainable agriculture that is sociologically, economically, and ecologically viable. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. McNeil.


Ms. Alarie, followed by Mr. Lincoln and then Mr. Reed.

Ms. Hélène Alarie (Louis-Hébert, BQ): Thank you for coming. Just so you know, you're preaching to one of the converted this morning.

I fondly recall a professor of mine, a priest in fact, who taught at the same university as Mr. McNeil and who introduced Quebec to composting. During the 1950s, he was looked upon as something of a visionary. Therefore, I've encountered different mindsets and experienced the highs and lows of the debate on organic farming for most of my life and that's why I'm very interested in the subject that we're discussing here this morning.

I have a question for Mr. Graff. Unlike Professor McNeil, I'll come straight to the point. My question concerns genetically modified products, a subject that is of great concern to me lately.

• 1015

You say that an accredited certification system was recently developed for organic growers, along with a full range of standards. This is a highly sensitive issue. At present, organic farmers, people who have spent a great deal of time building up their business, are constantly threatened when their fields are located close to other fields where genetically modified crops have been planted. I'm interested in knowing how you feel about this situation. I see this as posing a major threat to your accredited certification system.


The Chair: That's off the subject of pesticides, but if you feel like answering, by all means go ahead.


Ms. Hélène Alarie: Dr. McDonald also talked about this issue in his submission.


Mr. Allen Graff: I realize this meeting is on pests and pesticides, but by the same token, this technology also encompasses a pesticide. It's basically a form of implant production of a pesticide model. We are very concerned about this, because in the marketplace we have had organic farmers' products being turned away in the European Community because of what are called “GMO residual effects” in the product.

Basically we don't know where to go at this point. If you have a crop that is similar to the one in your area that is planted GMO, the only things we are suggesting at this point are to delay seeding so that you have interrupted flowering and/or not to grow that crop at all. At this point, short of some farm group or farmers getting together and entering into litigation, there's nothing we can do except to talk to the regulators such as those we have listening now on that very subject.


Ms. Hélène Alarie: Yes.


Ms. Eleanor Heise: If I may add a comment, we would very much like to see a notification procedure whereby a farmer planning to grow a genetically engineered crop would notify organic farmers of that fact before he plants it, so that planning can be done ahead of time.


Ms. Hélène Alarie: My next question is for Mr. Stonehouse. I was quite surprised to learn of the results of your research. I would have started out with the same premise as you, namely that organic farming was not a highly profitable form of farming. Therefore, the figures you quoted are quite surprising. What can we do to change people's perception of organic farming and small farming operations? Do you have any thoughts on this matter?


Dr. Peter Stonehouse: I've thought about it a lot. I'm going to pick up on a point made by my learned colleague here, Jeremy McNeil. He talked about sustainability and the complexity of processes involved in organic farming systems and, in fact, in all of the ways of producing food that we have. That was a point he was making.

But in organic farming in particular, if you can't rely upon the synthetic chemical inputs that the conventional farmer does, you have to find alternative ways, and those alternative ways are extremely complex, like crop rotations that include smother crops or cover crops, which keep the soil in place and break the cycles of insects, weed pests, and other pests. There are tillage methods, observations like weed-scouting and insect-scouting, and even methods of control like hand-pulling weeds. It's extremely complex and not easy.

• 1020

Moreover, it's so at variance with what we're teaching students in the agricultural colleges according to the conventional method of production across the country that it's totally foreign to begin thinking about organic farming systems. There aren't any courses on organic agricultural production systems—biologically, economically, or sociologically—at the University of Guelph. We don't have any at all.

A lot of these farmers who then leave the agriculture college at Guelph and start practising farming perhaps begin to question, as Allan Graff has, what it is we're doing: aren't we living rather dangerously applying these chemicals?

Where do they turn for advice when there isn't this research and extension-advisory-infrastructural system in place in Canada to offer them advice? I've asked the farmers that. I've asked them where they go. They say, “Oh, we go across the road into Michigan.” They say they go to America because there's nothing in Canada for them.

I think we have to begin by providing that infrastructure. We don't have to rely upon the taxpayers' money. That's a contentious issue as well. We don't have to ladle out hefty subsidies to these farmers. But I think we owe it to ourselves to begin questioning seriously the need for the kind of research and extension-advisory-infrastructural system that at least provides organic farmers with an information source, an advice source, and a technical help: what to do, what works, what doesn't work, under which circumstances, and so on.


The Chairman: Thank you, Ms. Alarie.

I would just like to mention to everyone here that our colleague Ms. Alarie served as Deputy Minister of Agriculture in the Quebec government before being elected to the House of Commons.

Mr. Lincoln.


Mr. Clifford Lincoln (Lac-Saint-Louis, Lib.): I realize the whole question of agricultural subsidies is now before the WTO and eventually might be a moot point, but as long as it's present, can you tell us, can anybody tell us, what the European model is like? Does it take into account a certain time for transition from one model to the other? How does it distinguish between efficient transition and inefficient transition from one model to the other? How is it geared up?

My second question is on marketing. Can you tell us how the marketplace, the supermarkets, accept organic products? Is it a big battle? How would you find an access in the convenience marketplace, in the everyday marketplace, for your product on a massive basis if we were to turn to organic agriculture?

Finally, Dr. McNeil, in regard to public education, which you have brought up, what sort of public education measures would you like to see in the new pesticides act that is being framed now by the ministry for introduction soon?

The Chair: Short answers would be welcome. Who would like to start?

Madam Heise.

Ms. Eleanor Heise: We've been looking into the subsidies around the world. There are six countries right now that are subsidizing their farmers' conversion to organic. Austria has the most developed program and is actually pouring a lot of funding into it. It is a transition of about three years; this is an international standard.

I was talking to a British woman at a conference recently—she's actually the president of the Soil Association, which is the equivalent of Canadian Organic Growers—and she said that in Britain they're quite concerned because a lot of people want to convert and it's not easy.

As you have probably comprehended today, it's a complex way of farming. You have to be ready to solve problems. You have to be flexible. You're perhaps more dependent on natural forces than conventional farming has been.

They're quite concerned at the success rate of the transition farmers. This is a problem they're working on, but they haven't solved yet.

Can somebody else talk about...?

The Chair: Dr. Stonehouse.

Ms. Eleanor Heise: Yes, please.

• 1025

Dr. Peter Stonehouse: First of all, in regard to that problem of shelf space, I think I can answer fairly quickly. It's with difficulty that you're able to find any shelf space. That's the term you want to be focusing upon in retail food outlets. Zehrs and Loblaws do a pretty good job these days. They have space allocated for organic produce.

It also depends upon the area of the country; it varies across the country.

It is a big fight. It's an uphill battle, I think. Consumers are somewhat reticent to pay higher unit prices for organically produced product. The retailers like Loblaws know this and therefore they don't go wholesale into that kind of product line. Otherwise, their sales would obviously be adversely affected.

Over to the European Union, where, first of all, they have a good research program at places like Friedrich-Wilhelm Universität in Bonn, Deutschland—Germany—the old capital of Germany. There's a very good research program there. They provide the kind of help and assistance to their organic farmers that we can't in Canada.

There's a coming research program in the United States. That's the sort of thing we should be starting out with. I don't think we can promote the idea of organic food production in Canada unless we have the backup assistance to offer, because people are going to say, well, how do I make this difficult transition?

And it is difficult. Organic farming is a different philosophy entirely. You have to think holistically. You have to think animals as well as crops in an integrated system that works for self-containment and self-sufficiency as far as possible. That's the difficulty. You're not into buying fertilizer if your soil tests shows that you're short of phosphorus. You don't do that sort of thing. You don't reach for the herbicide bottle if you've got a weed outbreak. You must use other systems. Otherwise, you lose your certification.

That's the main barrier to many farmers becoming organic by persuasion: it's difficult. You need to retool, to relearn, and we don't have the structural support for that.

Now, in the European Union they offer subsidies to work through this difficult transitional three-year period, and that is tremendous if you have a lot of money. Under the common agricultural program from Brussels, they do. They have deep pockets. They have a base of 380 million people to draw upon; in America, likewise. We don't. I'm not sure we can do that much more than research and extension advice.

The Chair: Mr. Graff, please.

Mr. Allen Graff: The EU subsidies are quite substantial in comparison to anything that's happening here in North America.

Off the top of my head, I don't have the exact figures, but I believe that England now is paying in the neighbourhood of about £265 per hectare, and they have used up that resource. This was an extended resource for three years. They used that up within six months because people went to that. It was for direct conversion.

In other countries, they do a different model. They use it as a pesticide reduction incentive and they pay farmers to go to school to learn and to use the system that's already in place. Their conversion is certainly a little slower, but it's also greater and faster than what we are doing here in Canada.

In regard to your question about the supermarket, the supermarkets are just now starting to come on stream. Peter alluded to some philosophies. One of the philosophies of organic farming is that of the shortest link possible to the consumer; in other words, from the field to the plate, the distance has to be very short. Certainly large chains of stores are accepting and are now talking of increasing their organic shelf space for organic production. There's a whole process, and that's where our standard comes into place, because everybody along the line has to be certified, from the farm to the processor to the distributor. Then ultimately, with the support of certain market marks, that will support the shelf space as well. So from that point, it's an industry in North America that's very much in its infancy and starting to grow very, very quickly.

• 1030

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Graff.

Mr. Reed, please.

Mr. Julian Reed (Halton, Lib.): Mr. Chairman, whatever this report says, I want to go on record as saying I'm keeping my beer, cheese, and yogurt even if I have to continue making it myself.

Ms. Heise, do you consider hybridization in the envelope of genetic engineering, or do you set it apart outside?

Ms. Eleanor Heise: It's absolutely not. We've been hybridizing for years, and selecting for that. In genetically engineered foods, please remember that it's trans-species. This tends to be underemphasized by those who produce genetically engineered organisms. It's very different.

Mr. Julian Reed: I'm glad to get that clear, because there's a lot of confusion.

Ms. Eleanor Heise: Yes. Don't forget, GE is trans-species.

Mr. Julian Reed: Okay, thanks very much.

Ms. Eleanor Heise: Corn with a scorpion in it.

Mr. Julian Reed: Dr. Stonehouse, it's been 43 years since I was a student at Guelph, of course in animal husbandry. I'm surprised to hear you talk about the courses that are offered now, because I don't remember being directed specially toward a chemical era or toward what we now call conventional farming.

I do remember getting exposure to the fundamentals, and you'll remember Professor Bill Ewen, who was a wonderful professor and a very thorough teacher. He taught us all about crop rotation and so on, and its importance. I still correspond with Bob Forshaw, who was my nutrition professor. But the kinds of courses we took—I should go back and dig them out again—did not emphasize monoculture. They didn't emphasize chemical wheat control particularly, but they gave exposure to as broad an area as possible.

What happened?

Dr. Peter Stonehouse: Would that those days could return to us. That's all I ask, is to allow the exposure to students, the next generation of agriculturalists—farmers and food processors—so they are placed in a position to make an informed choice. We can't do that at Guelph, because we espouse only that one end of the spectrum that I described as so-called conventional agriculture, the way it's evolved.

When you went to school there you were right at the cusp. The mid-1950s was just about the end of the era of teaching agriculture according to the precepts of our grandfathers and great-grandfathers, back in the beginning of this century, which was about how to integrate animals with crops and rotate crops so that you suppress insects, weed pests, and so forth—naturally, working with nature. That's the whole point.

Organic farming would bring much of that back. In fact it would bring it all back. But it would also incorporate advanced techniques like genetics. We can use genetics in organic agriculture. There's no problem. What we don't like are the synthetic chemical inputs, the synthetic hormones like bovine somatotropin, which, thank goodness, the agriculture committee determined should not be sanctioned for use in Canada.

So my own schooling went back to the late 1950s and early 1960s, and at that time they were beginning to expound on all these synthetic chemicals like simazine, atrazine, and so forth, that are two a penny today.

The Chair: I think Dr. McNeil would like to answer.

• 1035

Prof. Jeremy McNeil: I'd like to answer Mr. Lincoln's question in terms of public awareness, but it goes along with the lines here. At Laval, since I got there in 1972, I've been teaching agronomists an integrated pest management course that was always there. I think there has to be change, quite frankly, in our educational system, if we have agronomists and biologists coming out who don't understand the concepts of the systems we're supposed to be managing, and they've been presented with the ups and downs.

The other side, of course, is that I've discovered over the years that the best way I can get to the parents in my neighbourhood is by talking to the children. That is one part I would see of public education, really getting into the schools and going through the children. They watch a remarkable number of nature programs on television that are educational, and they could be oriented in that way.

I personally go to growers' groups and garden clubs and so on to try to get the message across that there are other ways of doing it. In my own neighbourhood, I've actually told all my neighbours, rather than spray, would you come and see my wife or me—we're both entomologists—and we will try to get you a solution that will get rid of it without using insecticides.

It's in part going to be a grassroots movement, but there are ways, through going through the schools


to develop innovative methods in schools and so forth where


you can really get this message across. But, quite frankly, I'm a little bit horrified to find out that there are universities where in faculties of agriculture there aren't courses in organic farming and so on.

The Chair: Mr. Graff, briefly, please.

Mr. Allen Graff: In answer to a question you posed about your schooling, in my research as a farmer, I have had to read reports and things like that, basically from 1959, most of them from 1956 and previously, to find any basic information for organic farming, if you will—applications from soil research that I can use in organic farming.

There has been more recently, perhaps because it's more faddish to have a research program on organic or sustainable farming. But the thing I find frustrating is that for the research programs that are going on at present, the ones I know about, the answers have already been done.

There is so much to research from here forward that it is a more exciting program to me. I would support that aspect, rather than what has already been done. I know there are people out there who do statistical research of previous research publications and things like that and then move from that point forward. I think that would be a far more sustainable practice than what we're doing at present, which is to try to prove that which has already been proven.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Graff.

I must move on to Mr. Jordan, followed by Mr. Herron, Mr. Jaffer, and the chair.

Mr. Jordan.

Mr. Joe Jordan (Leeds—Grenville, Lib.): I want to thank the panel. I agree with what's been said, and I realize, too, that the solution is very complex and it's going to come from a variety of areas.

I'm just wondering, Dr. Stonehouse, and I don't mean this facetiously.... I think your study, in which you compare the costs and margins, is a critical piece of this, because I think you alluded to the fact that you dispelled your own hypothesis. Coming from a rural riding, I've never met a farmer yet who has ever admitted to making a cent, so how did you collect this information?

Dr. Peter Stonehouse: We carefully interviewed the farmer with a very studiously compiled questionnaire with—

Mr. Joe Jordan: But you're comfortable that it was accurate, I guess.

Dr. Peter Stonehouse: Oh yes, yes.

Mr. Joe Jordan: Okay. I'll put theory aside for a second, but the general theme I'm hearing is that contrary to what might have been believed, organic farming at the end of the day yields a larger profit margin. But it sells for more, so part of that profit margin comes from the fact that you charge more for it.

Dr. Peter Stonehouse: Right.

Mr. Joe Jordan: How much of that part of the finished price, the increased margin, could be dealt with through scale economies if we had more people doing it or had distribution systems that were more sensitive? I guess at the end of the day you're saying that organic farmers can make more, but if that's simply a flow-through of charging more, we're no further ahead.

• 1040

Is it a case in which we could get the price of the goods to a competitive level? And how much is the difference? What is the difference for a vegetable? In terms of making the economic argument, it's always wonderful when we can make it, but how strong is the economic argument? If we were charging the same price for these products, how much of an adjustment could we make at the farm gate? I guess that's what I'm asking.

Dr. Peter Stonehouse: Well, that's a can of worms that you've opened up, no pun intended.

Let's begin with the easiest question first. Price differential at retail, at a place like like Safeway, is anything from 5% to 50%, depending upon the product concerned and the region of the country that you're in.

Another point I want to make—and I didn't have a chance to make it during my address—is that it isn't just the price differential that makes organic farming more profitable. We did a little experiment that levelled the price down from organic farmers' prices to the conventional farmers' prices, and the organic farmers were still more profitable. Why? Their costs of production were lower. That's the telling point. Costs are lower for organic producers. Suppose we had 270,000 farmers in this country, all farming organically. You wouldn't have to subsidize them, compared to what the Americans do and their costs of production.

So how do you address this problem of pricing and so forth, versus costs of production? Yes, if all of our farmers were persuaded to become organic, then prices would lower toward the conventional level somewhat. But I still think there would be a base reference point in the global arena. We're increasingly open to international competition, so whatever the Europeans and Americans are selling their organically produced products for abroad, I think that would become the base reference point. Nevertheless, there would be some convergence if all our farmers were to become organic producers.

The Chair: Professor McNeil and Mr. Graff, if they would like to answer as well.

Prof. Jeremy McNeil: It was relative to the economics.

Where I'm on sabbatical, there's an open market. There is one butcher and there is one greengrocer, both of whom sell organic meat and organic vegetables. Obviously it is a viable option; however, I did notice that the prices range between 25% to 40% higher than the stall right next door. I also sat and watched who was going in, and I think one has to be very realistic and say that it was the upper crust, to be terribly British about it.

When you actually look at the system right now, until it gets to be a more prevalent type of agriculture, the difference now does exclude different people. I think we have to be realistic about this, as I see it in the marketplace now, but I still believe that with the tools that are available and the ones that can be developed, that differential can be reduced.

The Chair: Mr. Graff, please.

Mr. Allen Graff: Thank you.

The price difference is quite significant, and I would like to refer.... I just came back from a Canadian Wheat Board meeting at which we had John Lister. He's from a mill in England, and his actual observation was that it is not the upper crust, it is actually university students who have very little disposable income. It is actually people under 37 years of age, mostly with single family incomes, and mostly right in the average. That's what he is finding.

The prices differ because of two things. One is the concept within the organic industry that the farmer has to be paid an economic return for his production. One of the costs in there is certification, and the other is cost of production. From that point of view, certainly the price has to be higher.

I know I'm going to be walking on shaky ground on this statement, but the other thing is that there is certainly a nutritional difference. When you buy organic food, you should be guaranteed a quality for food product. From that point of view, there is a higher amount of available minerals and there is a higher amount of available nutrients from that—and I can give you an example.

• 1045

In my cattle operation, I raise purebred red Angus, for which there is a record of performance. Whatever goes into the feedlot is measured coming back out. In my conversion time, I was feeding them the same amount of grain, I was feeding basically the same genetic cattle, and the winters were about the same—and this is going back to the mid-eighties. When I started feeding the organic grains into my cattle lot, I was able to feed about 15% less feed and still have the same amount of feed conversion there. Consequently, if you look at it, I can feed less grain and get the same amount of gain for the same amount of quality beef. So certainly all of the chains along are self-sustaining and cheaper for even the consumer. Once they eat their maximum amount of food, it becomes cheaper for them to stay on the organic program.

The Chair: Joe, very briefly, please.

Mr. Joe Jordan: I may be on shaky ground too, but I guess one of the problems is that it may not be that your products are too expensive, but that conventional products are not capturing all the costs in their price.

Ms. Eleanor Heise: Especially environmental ones.

Mr. Joe Jordan: Yes, exactly.

I have just one more quick point, Mr. Chair.

I think there's a window of opportunity here in the sense that, if I look at my riding, the average age of a farmer in Leeds—Grenville is about 58 years. There's going to be a generational transfer of these businesses, so maybe this is the time to try to develop the curricula that they need. What they need in a lot of cases is financing. If we're providing the financing, maybe there's a hook there by which we can tie it to education.

The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Jordan. You made my day.

Mr. Herron, Mr. Jaffer, and the chair.

Mr. John Herron (Fundy—Royal, PC): Thank you, Mr. Chair.

In terms of providing the economic financing, sometimes we perhaps get a little skittish when we start talking about additional subsidies in our society. I was somewhat more comforted from the comments that were made to do this more on the R and D side, from more of an advocacy perspective, than from the standpoint that we're looking at the funding transfer perspective.

What I'd like to do is swing this back into more of a health issue. The Pesticides Act is actually an act put forward by the Department of Health. Our concern over pesticides is health driven, so I'm going to try to pull this back in that direction.

The comments that were made with respect to the urban use of pesticides really do send alarm bells off in people's heads. For the most part, we have heard a consensus at the table that chemical remedies and pesticide use do have a role within our agrarian regime that we have today.

Ms. Eleanor Heise: I think two of us might dispute that.

Mr. John Herron: Perhaps.

Having said that, I have two questions. In terms of the educational perspective, any time I have to spend money on the inputs into my crop, that means I'm spending money. If I'm a farmer, I don't want to do that. In terms of our educational regimes that we have at our agricultural schools, how much are we actually trying to encourage the reduced input aspect of it?

The second component of the question deals with the fact that material safety data sheets aren't even required by law for pesticides. Do we actually have a health component for the farmers who are going to be living on those farms, who are going to be raising children on those farms, in terms of their actual exposure to pesticides? Is the health component of pesticide regimes included in our universities in that regard, from the educational perspective?

The Chairman: Would you like to respond, please, Dr. McNeil?

Prof. Jeremy McNeil: Obviously when we talk about integrated pest management in the courses, we talk about all of the options that are available, and what the upsides and the downsides are. Obviously health questions come into it, as do the ecological ones, to which it is much more difficult to put dollar figures.

But yes, they are, and that's extremely important. One thing, though, is that one has to be very careful when one talks about it. Things have to be very well documented.

• 1050

And I'm sorry, but I must take objection to what you said about the 18 sons who all died of cancer. There's a very strong genetic component there, and whether it was insecticides—

Ms. Eleanor Heise: The mother is still alive.

Prof. Jeremy McNeil: Yes, I know, but the father is also involved in this. The whole point is that this is thrown out and can then be picked up as “18 children died due to the use of insecticides”, where in actual fact they all died of cancer. I'm not saying it wasn't related to insecticides; I'm saying you do not have the scientific evidence that proves it was. This is one of the serious problems related to transgenic plants and so on.

There is the one that came out recently about the mice. A lot of people don't say we shouldn't do the research, they just object to the value. The whole scientific protocol that was used on that mouse experiment was flawed, but it has received enormous press. What we need for public education as well is somebody like Prince Charles, because he's doing a wonderful job for organic farming in England.

The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Herron.

Mr. Jaffer, please.

Mr. Rahim Jaffer (Edmonton—Strathcona, Ref.): I'd like to thank everyone for their presentations today.

My question is a follow-up on Mr. Jordan's question on the economic idea behind the issue of getting more people into organic farming. I'd probably be interested in hearing from Mr. Stonehouse and Mr. Graff on this, or whoever else may want to answer.

In creating incentives for alternative farming methods like organic farming, it seems to me a number of the organic farms were developed by people with little or no support from government, if I understand it correctly. I understand the costs can be low and the profit margins potentially can be quite large.

Overall, I'm just curious why more people haven't at least explored going into that type of business, if there are that many advantages. What other sorts of external factors are causing that? Is it the quality of the final product? Is it maybe subsidies in mainstream farming? I would like a little more clarity on that to understand why they haven't gone into it, because normally that would be incentive enough for people to change their methods.

Dr. Peter Stonehouse: First of all, the educational system doesn't promote the use of organic techniques, as was said. We need good solid research and development, and extension and educational programming in organic farming right across the country to get the word out.

Secondly, it's expensive in terms of time and risk-taking to transfer from conventional to organic farming. It's not easy to shake off; it's like stopping smoking, if you will. Not to reach for that chemical bottle is much easier said than done.

We don't have the incentives to help farmers make the switch. They're knowledgeable, and if they're made to realize the risks really aren't that great once you know what you're doing, we can look forward to many more transfers from conventional to organic.

I think the best way to go is through the educational process. Catch the farmers when they're students, for example, at the Ontario Agricultural College.

On a positive note, I can tell you we do espouse increasingly, at the agricultural college in Guelph, the reduced input method. There's nothing on organics, that's true, but we are at pains to point out that there are some human health implications and possible consequences—I'm choosing my words very carefully—as well as environmental and ecological detriments that we need to think about.

What we're preaching in one line is “less is more” in terms of synthetic chemical inputs in agriculture. At least we're at the halfway house.

Mr. Rahim Jaffer: Absolutely.

I'm curious, Mr. Graff, about what sorts of concerns or experiences you have had in the business, because in Alberta, where I'm from as well, there's a fairly large agricultural background. What sort of response did you get from some of your other colleagues in the mainstream farming industry when they saw what you were doing?

Mr. Allen Graff: That's exactly where I was going to head, in answering your first questions.

Could I step back to when I first started? From a social side, it was very negative. Many of the friends I had at that time were very involved in the dissemination of information from the agricultural sector. It has cost me friendships. Many people do not want to walk away from friendships, nor do I, but when you go to a friend and all you have to talk about is the weather, and after that your farming dictates are completely different and you get in an argument, that causes problems with friendships.

• 1055

When I went to research various technologies that I was interested in applying to my farm, I received, again, that same negative social pressure: “Well, you'll never go any place with that. You'll never be able to do that. The weeds will overcome you. The insects will eat you out of house and home.” The other thing that was really rather interesting was people asking, “Where's your team of horses?” Incidentally, just on that comment, I've chosen my team of horses now, but it's more of a luxury model, not necessity.

The idea, from that aspect, is that because the education system and the people that are disseminating the information are all from what we in the organic industry call the chemical culture, that is one of the reasons farmers do not gravitate to this farming system.

The neighbours certainly scratched their heads. So far I've been lucky for 17 years to get crops. They see me out there farming. I go around and around with a tractor, just like they do, and I have a cultivator, just like they do, but I'm doing different things in the soil. I'm plowing down green manures and doing other sorts of cultural practices that are certainly foreign to their ideas. But, you know, I'm just not a good farmer.

One of the most disturbing things to these people is the fact that I get more from my product. They do not seem to understand there's a whole process involved to get this premium. So you could call it jealousy or envy—I receive that as well. Consequently, with all these things thrown into the mix, you have to be very strong in nature, be able to stand by yourself, and be able to research the information for yourself.

Today, as I mentioned before, it seems to be a trendy thing to have a research program proclaiming organic or sustainable agriculture. I believe that as this is promoted more, then more and more people will become involved in organic farming, especially when the farmers see the profitability of the organic farm situation.

The Chairman: Thank you.

Madam Catterall, followed by the chair.

Ms. Marlene Catterall (Ottawa West—Nepean, Lib.): Speaking of attitudes—a perfect lead into my question—it seems to me that community attitude has a lot to do with how well organic products do in the marketplace. I know when I visit my family in Vancouver, most of the big supermarkets now offer a pretty full choice. I don't find the same in Ottawa.

I wonder if you have any insights into how we can change and sensitize community attitudes—we, as government representatives or representatives of Parliament, in the case of the other side of the table, and you, as experts in the field. What needs to be done here?

You said one question. That's it.

Mr. Allen Graff: Today there are many certification marks out there espousing products to be organic. As you know, we have a Canadian standard, and COAB is working on a certification system. When we have one mark in the system and are able to promote that mark or several marks that are encompassed within that system, and we can educate the consumer as to the value of that mark, there will be more and more confidence among consumers that this is truly an organic product.

I believe from that aspect, as well as other sorts of values, nutritional value and other things that are in the pipeline and coming down, as soon as those are made public, the consumers will have a better awareness of its value and the value for the increased price they're paying for it.

The Chairman: Dr. McNeil.

• 1100

Prof. Jeremy McNeil: One thing I found in terms of trying to get farmers to adopt the methods that were not just going and spraying the heck out of everything that moves is that we would go into areas and we would find out which of the farmers were the most influential within the community and then work on them. Then when we started getting them to think differently, funnily enough, other people would then suddenly say “He's been very successful as a farmer, a businessman, but he's actually changing, and he wouldn't take a risk like this.” And it impacted on the other people.

So we have a responsibility as scientists of getting down and finding the best way to get in. Initially, when you start saying “Wasps will help you”, or “Use pheromones”, they look at you and go, “Sure, sure.” It's easier to spray; as my colleague has mentioned, reach for the bottle and spray.

The Chair: Dr. Stonehouse, briefly.

Dr. Peter Stonehouse: I think the best way is not to try to subsidize the organic industry directly, especially at this young stage in Canada's evolutionary development. Accentuate education, and research and development, so that we have better, more accurate knowledge, a body of knowledge. We need a knowledge base to work from. Then we can tell the next generation of farmers through educational means that it's a better way to go, or it's as profitable or more profitable an alternative way to go.

I don't think we want to be at this stage like the European Union, where we're directly subsidizing farmers. That would be premature, because I don't think we have that body of knowledge. My research work is seminal—you have to appreciate that—for Canada. Much more is being done abroad. So little is being done in Canada, we need more of that and then we're sure of our ground.

The Chair: Ms. Heise, please.

Ms. Eleanor Heise: In one section of my presentation, which I omitted, I did mention the fact that for example the biotechnology industry, through subsidies and through support in many departments of our government, is subsidized probably—and it's very difficult to get accurate figures—around $400 million a year, and support for sustainable agriculture is under $1 million. Perhaps we could move some of those subsidies to a more sustainable area.

The Chair: Thank you, Ms. Catterall.

Actually, we are over time, but, Dr. Stonehouse, could you summarize for us in a few minutes what requirements you would like to see in place in order to develop a viable export market for organic products?

Dr. Peter Stonehouse: We have the standard, Mr. Chair, that's the logical starting place. Then people who are buying abroad have confidence in the fact that it's supposedly certified organic. We needed that. We need to follow through on that now by expanding the organic food production base. As far as I can determine from the few data that are available out there, there's a huge market potential, especially over in Europe, and we can't fill that in Canada because we're not large enough producers.

The Chair: Would you be more precise? Of what, for instance?

Dr. Peter Stonehouse: Crops like spelt, which is a wheat-like cereal grain used for—

A voice: Soybeans.

Dr. Peter Stonehouse: Soybeans, yes, would be another good example, and canola. If we could expand the base for production and be more consistent, with constant suppliers...more secure suppliers, because we have the base with which to meet the market demand in these countries abroad, would be the next step, I think. We do this by encouraging organic production in this country, and how we do that is by pointing out the fallacy that the conventional way to go is a profitable way to go. It isn't.

One of my favourite questions in farm management classes at Guelph is to ask the students, how many of you are aware of a farmer, a neighbour, or even a member of your own family, farming, who's in financial trouble? The hands would go up all over the class; everybody's hand is shooting up. All right, thank you very much. Now, hands up, all of those students who know of a financially handicapped or poor agrochemical pesticide manufacturer or distributor.

• 1105

Voices: Oh, oh!

Dr. Peter Stonehouse: Everybody is looking around to see where the hands are, but of course there aren't any. Ergo, by using these synthetic products, you're putting money, as farmers, into the hands of the manufacturers.

Which brings me to another sore point about why the agriculture college at Guelph is a big espouser of the so-called conventional approach. It's because the deep pockets of the synthetic chemical manufacturers are the ones providing the huge moneys to support research and development in extension in Ontario agriculture. Therefore the organic industry can't compete. I turn to these people as a researcher and say “Can you provide me with any money to do further research work?” They say, “No, no, we don't have any.” And government isn't that interested. So it's rather a sad tale.

The Chair: To conclude, Mr. Stonehouse, do you have any comments to make as to the attitude of the Canadian Wheat Board in relation to organic farming?

Dr. Peter Stonehouse: Well, it would be nice to see an institution such as that espousing the organic cause, at least to the extent of offering to be the marketer, the principal marketer—in fact the sole marketer—of wheat in the country, however it's produced. If it's clearly labelled and differentiated as organic, I think there would be a tremendous boost by having the CWB support the organic production system.

The Chair: Mr. Graff, very briefly, please.

Mr. Allen Graff: In regard to that question about the Canadian Wheat Board, certainly the Canadian Wheat Board is in the process of identifying marketers. The other day I was at their seminar, entitled “From Niche to Mainstream: Organics”. They are identifying to their customers abroad that there certainly is organic grain available.

As for their being a marketer, no, I don't believe that will happen, because they do not know what the premiums are, they cannot justify the premiums, and they do not have the availability for an organic pool, if you will, to pool the moneys from the grain in. Consequently, out of that, we do a process called a buyback, where we as organic farmers buy our organic grain back from the jurisdiction of the Canadian Wheat Board and then sell it to our market consumers abroad and/or within eastern Canada. That way we still participate in the general pool and we still also maintain our premium price coming back to the organic producer.

The Chair: Thank you.

We need to adjourn. On behalf of the members of the committee, I thank you very much indeed. It was very helpful.

This meeting stands adjourned.