If there's one thing the soil-growing and out-of-soil producers can agree on, is that the debate around the organic & soil production is upsetting. If there's two, it's that hydro- and aquaponics should not be entering the organic world via a back door. But how should it be? In- or excluded? With one week to go before the Quebec public consultation on aquaponics ends, Marc Laberge with ML Aquaponics holds a plea for including all plants in the Quebec organic rules.
"Aquaponics is here to stay and is a great way of farming. Aquaponics has the potential to supply year-round organic fruits, vegetables and fish at a reasonable price, yet this entire type of farming, this fundamental Mother Natures’ purest, most organic, way of growing clean, dirt-free plants is at stake here", Marc with ML Aquaponics says. His aquaponics farm ML Aquaponics has harvested millions of crops of lettuce and rainbow trouts over the years. Following the Canadian Aquaculture Organic Laws, none of these has ever been certified organic - but that can change since the organic certification requirements of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) were extended to aquaculture products early this year.
Roots in water
"However Quebec’s organic watch dogs, the CARTV, are still not convinced that plants having their roots growing in water should be allowed to carry the organic certification", Marc explains. Currently the CARTV is asking for he public's opinion on this matter and Marc doesn't want the industry to miss out on this opportunity.
"We have every right to be called organic and are proud of it. Although our voices are outnumbered by at least a 1000 to 1, does this mean we have no rights?"
He shows Google answers on the search for organic:
1. Relating to or derived from living matter. “organic soils”. Synonym: living, live, animate, biological, natural.
2. (of food or farming methods) produced or involving production without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial agents. Synonym: pesticide-free, additive-free, chemical-free, nonchemical, natural
"If you look at the evolution of plants on this planet, you will find that they derived from water, starting out as some type of algae. Water is the essence of life on plant Earth, the Mother of all “Mother Natures” if you like", he says. "Organic farming is a method that grows plants in living matter without using synthetic chemicals. Synthetic fertilizers mean man made, we’re not talking about salts and minerals that are extracted from nature by man, but rather created by processes that would most likely never take place naturally."
Synthetic vs organic
"One of such procedures that comes to mind, is the use of petroleum to create nitrogen and then used as a synthetic fertilizer. So then, what is living matter? Besides the obvious, can soils be considered living matter? Of course, they can if they haven’t been burnt-out by harsh chemicals. What about water? The same applies, cities must kill off many living organisms in order to provide safe drinking water, but take a look under a magnifying glass at water from a natural source such as lakes, rivers, ponds and you will see life, lots of life."
Out of habit
Continuing on this point of view, Marc says that the combination soil-organic is mainly a combination made out of habit. "Organic farming using soil has been around for a long time, so long as a matter of fact, that some people are now saying that organic farming must use soil. Aquaponics is a farming method using fish to provide nutrients to plants that are grown in water. Although aquaponics has been around longer than soil farms, only in the last few decades has this way of producing food intensively, under controlled environments become of interest, to a new generation of organic farmers."
That's why Marc now urges the public to take the opportunity and send out their point of view to the CARTV, currently holding a questioning on the matter. "The CARTV claim that only “aquatic” plants can be allowed to be organic, and that “terrestrial” plants must use the soil organic rules that, ironically do not allow cultivation in water. Looking at the definition of Organic, and knowing all terrestrial plants arose from water, we can only wonder if the organic farmers using soil, are trying to prevent other new organic aquaponic farmers from entering their niche markets?"
He's pleaing for a more united industry and calls out to the industry to use the opportunity and fill in the Quebec questioning.
"We all believe in organic food the same way the soil people do, we share so many values and yet like siblings continue this fight", Marc says. "Have we forgotten what the essence of life is and that nothing will grow without it? Do the organic farmers using soil have a right to exclude aquaponic farmers from this label? Has the word Organic evolved into another meaning over time? If so, what definition should we use? What does Organic mean to you?"
The CARTV is submitting the following decision for public consultation:
The organic production standard in the aquaculture sector used in Québec complies with the principles of the current CAN/CGSB-32.312 Standard. However, the application of this CAN/CGSB-32.312 Standard for crops is only recognized for aquatic plants. The certification criteria are therefore not applicable to land plant cultivation. The organic certification criteria for land plants are those of CAN/CGSB-32.310.
The public consultation beginning on January 14, 2019 will last 60 days. This proposal may be commented on until March 14, 2019 inclusively.
During this period, any individual or organization may make comments supported by an argument by writing to the Conseil des appellations réservées et des termes valorisants:
Consultation publique « Appellation biologique »
CARTV 4.03 – 201, boulevard Crémazie Est
Montréal QC H2M 1L2 Canada