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Organic beekeeping & honeybee health

TheOuropen source Nature is Organic seed initiative

The salad spinning Fall 2014 – 1 dilemma


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Canadian Organic Grower



Editorial..................................4 The Canadian Organic Standards Review

COG Book Review: Protecting Organic Seed Integrity.............................................................................5

COG Donation and Book Form......................................19

The Open Source Seed Initiative

Classifieds.............................32 The Last Word......................33 How to Design a New Food Product in Ten Easy Steps Contributors: Millefiore Clarkes, Don Kerr, Jordan Marr, Kelsey McKee, Rowena Power, jennifer raifteiri-mcardle, Maryann Roebuck, Av Singh and Chris Thoreau

Protecting the Commons...................................................8 Making it in Mackin Creek.............................................12 Island Green - A Film of Hope.......................................16 Organic Week Recap and Reminder..............................20 The Salad Spinning Dilemma.........................................22 Long Point Honey Company................................................26 Organic Beekeeping and Honeybee Health

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Our Nature is Organic

Fall 2014 – 3

The Canadian Organic Grower Editor Beth McMahon Advisory Committee Roxanne Beavers, Matthew Holmes, Anne Macey, Stuart McMillan, Gwen O’Reilly, Lily Pepper, Av Singh, Elizabeth White

a cog perspective on the Canadian Organic Standards Review process Jordan Marr

Advertising contact COG office (see address below) or Subscriptions / COG Membership Production Irene Victoria Design Toronto, Ontario The Canadian Organic Grower is published by: Canadian Organic Growers (COG) 1145 Carling Ave, Suite 7519, Ottawa ON K1Z 7K4 T: 613-216-0741 1-888-375-7383 F: 613-236-0743 COG Board of Directors: Sarah Dobec, Rochelle Eisen, Janine Gibson, Sheila Hamilton, Jordan Marr, Beth McMahon, Ward Middleton, Elizabeth Nason, Tegan Renner, Vlad Skotar The editor cannot accept responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts or photo­graphs. The opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of COG. Editor­ial content may not be reproduced without permission. Canadian Organic Growers, Inc. ISSN 1710-761X The Canadian Organic Grower Publications Mail #4076 8546


Cost per issue: $6.00 Volume 11, Number 3 Fall 2014

Cover photo credit: © proxyminder Cover design: Irene Hawkings

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The Canada Organic Regime, which is the name for the collection of documents that provide regulation and guidance for producers of organic agricultural products in Canada, did not simply appear after a hippie and a bureaucrat conducted a secret organic handshake. The original standards, completed in 2006, were the result of a painstaking process of decision-making among dozens of representatives of the industries and organizations whose members claimed a stake in the process. Nor is the Regime set in stone, as if some latter-day, granola-eating Moses, perched on a mountain of compost, took dictation straight from Pachamama. Rather, the Canada Organic Regime is a set of living documents that are subject to periodic revisions in order to reflect both new research and insights from those impacted by the standards. No one knows this better than Anne Macey, a COG chapter Cochair and COG representative to the Canadian General Standards Board Committee on Organic Agriculture, which oversees those revisions. I recently spoke to Anne, who told me that for this round of revisions, a process that is supposed

The Canadian Organic Grower

to take place every five years, the main focus is on reducing ambiguities in the standards. “The Standards Interpretation Committee has received a lot of questions about sections of the standards that are unclear,” Anne explains. “This suggests a need for clarification. If the standards are unclear, they’re not doing their job.” The revisions process is also about improving the standards by giving stakeholders an opportuni-

ty to suggest changes. As a COG board member, I saw this process in action when Anne sought board approval for a change she wished to propose. The issue in question – Should a conventional producer be allowed to grow GMO crops in a split production system while in transition to organic? – required a ten-email exchange just to understand the question at hand. Eventually, an informed debate took place (admittedly, in the middle of it, I felt like a priest debating how many angels could dance on the edge of a pin). But by the end

I felt good; the discussion needed to happen, and Anne returned to the committee with a clarification of COG’s position. Democracy at work! Other discussions Anne has been privy to during this round include a proposal to relax buffer zone restrictions that make the production of organic honey nearly impossible, and a debate about whether farmers in semi-arid zones should be allowed to use treated fence posts. The hope is that the sum total of all this effort, given largely by vol-

unteers over a period of months, will be a Canada Organic Regime that is up-to-date, understandable, and reflective of a diversely represented, consensus-driven process. Want to have a say in this process? It’s not too late! Visit to get involved.

Jordan Marr is an organic market gardener in Peachland, BC, and sits on COG’s Board of Directors.

COG Book Review Protecting Organic Seed Integrity: The Organic Farmer’s Handbook to GE Avoidance and Testing Reviewed by Donald Kerr, M.Sc. Agriculture “Protecting Organic Seed Integrity: The Organic Farmer’s Handbook to GE Avoidance and Testing” Publication Coordinator & Senior Researcher, Writer, and Editor: Holli Cederholm, OSGATA General Manager. Contributing Researchers, Writers, and Editors: Isaura Andaluz, Jim Gerritsen, Lyn Howe and Bryce Stephens.


rotecting Organic Seed Integrity is intended to serve as a comprehensive resource for those involved in the organic seed trade to take the necessary measures and precautions when it comes to keeping organic seed free from genetically engineered

(GE) contamination. Both the U.S. National Organic Standards and the Canadian Organic Standards prohibit the use or presence of GE traits or organisms in organic production practices. When it comes to approved GE crops, it is unfortunately the organic producers who assume the risk, responsibility and costs of ensuring that GE contamination does not enter into their production system. While acknowledging that this is an unfair burden placed upon those connected to the organic seed industry, this book offers a host of best management practices and seed-testing suggestions in an effort to minimize the production inconveniences and costs related to contamination avoidance measures or lost market share. Our Nature is Organic

Discussed are all foreseeable means of GE contamination to at-risk organic seed and crops, indicating the degree of risk associated with each and how those risks might be mitigated. A significant amount of material is presented on testing seed for Fall 2014 – 5

GE contamination, as genetic testing is the only qualitative means of assurance that organic seed is “GE-free”. The latest scientific testing procedures and their respective advantages and limitations are described in detail that remains understandable, and seed lot sampling techniques are also covered for various scales of production. Knowing how and when to draw a representative sample is essential to acquiring reliable test results. Of particular value, the book presents detailed profiles for the eight at-risk crop kinds for which GE crops are currently in production in the U.S. Each profile neatly summarizes the prevalence of GE crops and approved traits for that particular crop kind, along with important considerations pertaining to plant biology, regions grown, the relative risk of GE contamination, possible roles of wild relatives, best management practices and key testing considerations. While the OSGATA has published this book for American organic producers, it serves Canadian pro-

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ducers well too. The lists of at-risk crop kinds between the U.S. and Canada are not identical, but there is much overlap. Further, many of the best management practices mentioned are not crop-specific and could be applied more broadly. With a bit of research, one could use the format and content of the crop profiles listed to generate equivalents for those at-risk crops in Canada that are not covered in the book. Overall, this book would be a very helpful resource for those in, or reliant upon, the organic seed industry in Canada. When it comes to understanding the threats of GE contamination for the various at-risk crop kinds, organic producers could benefit from reading this material; the OSGATA did a very good job at researching and distilling the relevant information, so you wouldn’t have to. Hardcopies of the book are available at An electronic PDF version of the book is available free of charge from (a donation to the organization is, of course, welcomed).

The Canadian Organic Grower

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Our Nature is Organic

Fall 2014 – 7

“Protecting the Commons” – The Open Source Seed Initiative By Av Singh


armers for millennia have gathered and saved seeds from one growing season to plant in the next, helping to evolve new varieties. Yet, this age-old tradition has been under threat for the past four decades through the introduction of hybrid seeds, and more recently, by corporations that are increasingly restricting access to seeds through patents. In 2012, a few university professors, in partnership with some independent seed companies, started the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) to tackle the complicated legal and ethical situation of seed patents and ownership. With the tag line “Free the Seed”, the OSSI’s Seed Pledge was launched in April 2014 with over 30 seed varietals, in hopes to slow down the concentration and privatization of what was once a resource of the commons. Red ursa kale, sovereign carrots, white salmon spelt, lemon pastel calendula, red head quinoa and hyper red rumple waved lettuce were just some of the varieties released, all part of the backdrop of OSSI’s idea to keep seeds free for all people to grow, breed, and share for perpetuity. “A Biological Meme”

One of the founders of OSSI, Jack Kloppenburg (University of Wisconsin-Madison) says, “It’s kind of a biological meme, you might say: Free seed! Seed that can be used by anyone!” These words come towards the end of a distinguished career of challenging the enclosure of the commons by governments and corporations. Kloppenburg, although optimistic about the concepts involved in open source seed sharing, recognizes that open source seed’s greatest gift is as a conversation starter–engaging farmers, consumers, academics and others in discussions about topics like, “why isn’t all seed free?” or “how can genetic traits and living things be patented?” Kloppenburg hopes that by attaching a free seed pledge (see inset) to packets of open source seed that 8 – Fall 2014

This Open Source Seed pledge is intended to ensure your freedom to use the seed contained herein in any way you choose, and to make sure those freedoms are enjoyed by all subsequent users. By opening this packet, you pledge that you will not restrict others’ use of these seeds and their derivatives by patents, licenses, or any other means. You pledge that if you transfer these seeds or their derivatives they will also be accompanied by this pledge.

the seed–and perhaps the genetic resources within–will enter the protected commons in perpetuity. This would be in contrast to the current traditional commons, where people could obtain the seed, breed using them and restrict future use through patents or licenses. Increasingly, germplasm (genetic material within the seed) is patented and protected by seed companies and corporations. Kloppenburg notes, “Where do you go if you’re a breeder? Wouldn’t it be better to have seed that you could at least breed with? Open-source seeds would be free for breeding. We are interested in getting to a protected commons, in which the people who will share freely can share freely, but those who won’t share are excluded.” A Return to Eden? Critics and skeptics of the OSSI focus largely upon the legal strength of a “pledge”, in terms of being a deterrent for the eventual patenting of genetic traits found within these new varieties. This is fair; however, OSSI co-founder, Irwin Goldman, a vegetable breeder at University of Wisconsin-Madison, makes a com-

The Canadian Organic Grower

pelling case to return to times where plant breeding was more collegial and ethical. Goldman refers to a code of ethics amongst breeders in the past, “If other breeders asked for our materials, we would send them a packet of seed, and they would do the same for us. That was a wonderful way to work and that way of working is no longer with us.” Both Goldman and Kloppenburg, would ideally like this seed movement to parallel the software-industry’s “open source software” initiative, to commit those who use the seeds as raw material for new products to share those innovations under the same open-source terms. Kloppenburg and Goldman initially discussed a more restrictive licensing agreement, but the amount of fine print was in philosophical contrast to the spirit of the project. Goldman often states the free seed pledge, “…is almost a haiku, it’s a commitment to keep the seeds, and their derivatives, in the public domain.”

SOLD OUT! The first round of seeds of quinoa, peppers, and squash developed by Wild Garden Seed in Oregon, lettuce and kale from Lupine Knoll Farm in Oregon, carrots bred by Goldman (cv. Sovereign) and spelt from High Mowing Organic Seeds in Vermont, have all been bought and are taking orders for this fall’s crop.

Commons versus Corporate Tom Stearns, founder of OSSI partner company High Mowing Organic Seeds, contributed just one seed to the recent release–red spelt. In large part, High Mowing Seeds is strongly committed to the concept of Open Source Seeds, but Stearns wants to watch how industry and breeders responded collectively. He wonders if there is enough respect for seed and a philosophy of sharing that would prevent people from seeking patents on varieties or genetic traits derived from Open Source seeds. Stearns’ concerns are not unwarranted. Goldman had been developing a red carrot for over 15 years, but recently found that Seminis (a subsidiary of Monsanto) had an application for a patent on “carrots having increased lycopene content”–essentially red carrots. Similarly, Frank Morton, founder of OSSI partner company Wild Garden Seed, developed a red lettuce that retains its colour right to the core, only to find that a Dutch seed company had just recently received a patent on that very trait. As a farmer and plant breeder, Morton has expressed his frustration with the current situation, “It rubs me the wrong way that works of nature can be claimed as the works of individuals… to me, it’s like getting a patent on an eighteen-wheeler when all

you did was add a chrome lug nut.1 ” In the past 15 years, lettuce has had more than 100 patents, with approximately another 160 pending. These patents cover everything, including generic traits like colour, size, sweetness and Brix levels. Moreover, many feel that the patenting and protection of seeds and germplasm has serious implications on the development of a robust, resilient, and secure food future. The lack of sharing amongst breeders has stifled plant development geared to addressing the vagaries of climate and the economy. For plant breeders, the opportunity to have a broad genetic base (i.e. many different varieties) to make combinations which allows for greater gene mixes. This leads to increased chances of finding a particular variety that may express traits like increased pest resistance or drought stress. Three corporations–Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta–now control more than half of the global commercial seed market. Not surprisingly, this has resulted in dramatic increases in the cost of seeds, but it also limits the amount of seed or germplasm that will (and can) be freely exchanged. Goldman and Kloppenburg passionately maintain 1   Hamilton, Lisa M., “Linux for Lettuce” (VQR Journal, Summer 2014). Source:

Our Nature is Organic

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The Future of Seed: These seeds at the Navdanya seed bank are examples of the traditional open source seed sharing that has existed for millennia. The sharing of these seeds (many of which are open-pollinated) with farmers is helping secure a seed sovereign future.

that seeds are part of our common cultural heritage and should remain in the public domain. Both envision that the phrase “open source seeds” will soon garner support from individuals who seek similar ethics in labels like “organic” or “fairtrade”. Regardless, the open source seed concept is launching a call for seed companies, plant breeders, farmers, and perhaps society in general, to reconsider the commons as a fundamental component of a just and sustainable food system. Open Source Seeds has a foundational role in creating seed sovereignty, but it has to be part of a greater movement. The importance of open-pollinated seeds must be acknowledged: an open-pollinated system by definition is in opposition to the corporate, patenting, intellectual-property system. The beauty of an open-pollinated system is that, unlike hybrid seeds, seeds can be saved and used year after year, always evolving, and always expressing slightly different traits. Open-pollinated systems have received

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little government or academic research in the past 50 years, yet many varieties will yield close to that of hybrids. Perhaps, more importantly, because of the genetic variability within open-pollinated lines the traits of these seeds can be quite difficult to patent. Thus, in open-pollinated varietals, any farmer can save seeds and because of the genetic diversity, patents are fruitless. Together, farmer and consumer interest for open-pollinated varieties and momentum for opensource seeds, combines to make a powerful force in support of authentic seed sovereignty.

Av Singh, Ph.D., P.Ag., serves as the Organic & Rural Infrastructure Specialist with Perennia in Nova Scotia and currently holds the Chair in Small Farm Sustainability at the Just Us! Centre for Small Farms. Av is available for question or comment via email or by phone (902) 670-2656.

The Canadian Organic Grower

SAMPLE TCOG Fall 2014  
SAMPLE TCOG Fall 2014