Is Organic Food Really What You think It Is? – Mischa Popoff

I have almost become desensitized to attacks on biotech crops and food.  Quite regularly you can watch the news or read the newspaper and hear negative reports that are unfounded and baseless in much fact.  Rarely do you hear someone attack the validity of organic food and especially from someone that is from the inside.

Mischa Popoff was one of the first certified organic farmers in Canada and is still currently an organic inspector.  He has written a book entitled, “Is It Organic?,” where he is questioning the the validity of organic certification in Canada.  Mischa Popoff is not anti-organic but instead wants consumers to realize that in many cases the wool is being pulled over their eyes.  They are falling victim to trendy marketing and losing the perspective on what is happening behind the scenes.  It is very clear to me that for one of the first times the organic industry needs defend itself just like the biotech industry always does.  The only difference is that the criticism is coming from one of their own and requires some serious explanations.

Enjoy the interview with Mischa Popoff and this inside look at organic certification in Canada.

If you cannot see the below embedded video, click here

 

Shaun Haney

Shaun grew up on a family seed farm in Southern Alberta. Haney Farms produces, conditions and retails wheat, barley, canola and corn seed. Shaun Haney is the founder of RealAgriculture.com. @shaunhaney

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12 Comments

Peter

The fact that Canada is importing 80% of organic products is disturbing to me. Organics is about local production and not imports from Brazil and China. I will definitely be ordering Mr. Popoff’s book.

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Rob

Your interview fails to mention that Mr. Popoff now runs a business claiming to “test” food to determine if food is “organic”. So his book could be sub-titled “Pay Me And I’ll Tell You”! For someone who claims to be “inside” the organic sector, he exhibits an extremely poor understanding of the certification system. Please go talk to someone without a vested business interest in attacking the certification system.

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Tom Cassan

Mr. Popoff has attacked the organic industry many times questioning its’ validity when he has represented himself as an organic inspector and farmer. He is thoroughly discredited within the organic industry and in no way can represent organics as an expert. As said above he has a financial interest in “proving” organics to his own standards. I would suggest Real Agriculture consult more people within the organic industry as well as consumers who are confused and tired of the misrepresentations and innuendo that surround organic food. As far as I’m concerned, if food is not certifed to the Candian Organic Standard, it is not organic. And I AM an accredited organic inspector.

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Tom Cassan

Further to the above, organic production which is certifed to the Canadian Organic Standard can be easily explained and information is easily available. The same cannot be said of the biotech industry. Biotech crops have failed to live up to their promise in every category and consequences will be unknown for generations to come.

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Mischa Popoff

Howdy everyone. I’m the author. Glad to meet all of you.

Organic activists always attack me by claiming I run a business that tests organic farms to ensure they’re actually organic. I no longer run that business, but even if I did, why is it bad to make a living testing organic farms but it’s all right to make a living by looking at paperwork for three hours? Is Tom Cassan really so much more objective than me because he makes his living this way? Business is business… isn’t it?

Organic activists say I own my own lab or that I have an interest in a lab. This is not true. I haven’t made one cent in profit off the organic industry since 2003 when I laid down my pen after my last paper-based inspection. I am fortunate enough to have found other ways to make a living. Making honest organic farmers miserable by telling them their audit trail is insufficient really bothered me. Can you believe they pay thousands of dollars for such bureaucratic aggravation? A test costs only $150; and it’s conclusive.

What was most amazing when I tested organic farms was the overwhleming number of organic farmers who thought the idea was long overdue. Doesn’t it just scream common sense? And besides, how could I promote the concept of organic field testing if I had never actually done it?

Well, that’s all folks. All the best, even to my detractors.

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Robert Wager

Interesting comment from the certified organic inspector. Unfortunately he is completely wrong. GM crops have demonstrated huge benefits to both the farmers growing them and the environment. Less synthetic insecticide spray to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds is a direct result of growing Bt crops. Billions of tons of top soil have not been lost from tillage of the soil to deal with weeds as farmers have adopted reduced or zero-tillage made possible with HT crops. I find it interesting that these well documented benefits would most definitely have been trumpeted if they were from organic agriculture techniques but because they are a direct result of biotech crops people deny the very real benefits. As for the scare implication of consuming GM crops, that scare story is as baseless today as it was 15 years ago when we first started eating GM crops. not a single case of harm from eating GM crops has ever been documented. There are a great many myths about GM crop on the web, my website can help people fearn to distinguish between what is real science and what is pseuo-science designed to scare people inot buying alternatives to GM crops.

http://web.viu.ca./wager

cheers

Rob Wager

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Rob

Mischa Popoff claims “A test costs only $150; and it’s conclusive.” Conclusive of what I ask? That the food is produced according to the principles of organic agriculture and all of the specific practices prescribed in the National Standard? Because that is what “organic” means, and anyone who claims to be able to prove that with a $150 test is seriously misinformed, to put it mildly. Mr. Popoff’s perspective is definitely not “an inside look”, and organic food is far more than what he or Mr. Haney seems to thinks it is. As Mr. Cassan suggested, talk to those who are truly informed.

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Mischa Popoff

While some of what makes a good organic farmer cannot be tested in a lab – being holistic is a perfect example – anything an opportunist might do to cheat his way to a hefty organic premium is easily confirmed through a simple lab test.

Sure, you might have a deeper bredth of philosophical understanding than I do, but a fraudster isn’t going to get very far pretending to be holistic. He’ll get very far though by using substances he’s not supposed to, like synthetic fertilizer and herbicides.

Why overcomplicate something as basic as being organic?

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Shaun Haney

As I have said on this site and on many others, I am not anti-organic at all. I believe that there is a fit for both conventional farming and organic production. From the reaction of everyone to the interview with Mischa it is clear this is an isolating issue. Just as Mischa has said some controversial things so have some of you. Hopefully this forum has added to the discussion between organics and conventional agriculture.

Thanks for your comments and I greatly appreciate you visiting RealAgriculture.com.

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Harry Siemens

Shawn and Rob and others – When someone tells me you don’t represent something correctly because money is involved, I chuckle. Each organic producer or those who sell it in stores do so to make money. So they too have a vested interest. The only way I would by organic is locally and if I know that person to be honest and true.
Just as an aside – I also chuckle sometimes because often those who oppose when farmers spread hog manure on soils will put manure on their strawberries.
Shawn – Do you have Mischa’s phone number or email address? Mischa if you read this contact me at [email protected]

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