17, 2004: We say, "Food is safe for health,
farming systems are safe for the environment," and then
we layer on the regulations. I wonder why?
The food chain is transforming best management practices
into rules and regulations, standards and protocols. I wonder
It all started with one voluntary Environmental Farm Plan
more than a decade ago. Now they are everywhere -- few are
voluntary or will stay voluntary for long. Here's a sample
list of the plans, protocols, standards, rules and guidance
documents that have arrived for many farmers in little more
than a decade: nutrient management plans, contingency plans,
emergency plans, hazard analysis critical control point (HAACP),
quality assurance programs, refugia for BT corn, technology
use agreements and traceability initiatives. More are coming:
animal transport standards, deadstock management, antibiotic
resistance management, ISO 14000 - an international environmental
management standard -- and source water protection plans.
This transformation to formal, documented assurance schemes
has emerged throughout the food chain. I wonder why?
Is it because the food chain is adopting more and more industrial
methods of production and there is no way to trust industrial
processes in the same way we trust food with the farmer's
face on it? Is it because the long-distances that so much
of our food travels adds new risks? The discovery of mad cow
disease in North America has already resulted in half a dozen
new rules and additional recommendations from an international
panel of experts. The goal is to re-establish long-distance,
cross border movements.
What if all this emphasis on formal assurance programs creates
unrealistic expectations about the safety of food for health
and the security of our farming systems for the environment?
Food and farming, after all, are rooted in living plants and
animals. Life is ecological. Subject a part of the creation
to a repetitive industrial process and creation will change,
adapt, and eventually work around such constraints.
These questions underlie the Christian Farmers Federation's
seminar series this winter. I invite you to join us at one
of our eleven sessions. Help us explore the question: Can
still more regulations make the food chain safer for our health
and for our environment?
The series starts on February 16 in Simcoe and ends on March
26 near Ottawa. Dates, locations and registration are on the
CFFO website at www.christianfarmers.org
or call: 519-837-1620.
The Americans tell us that new rules are appropriate in response
to the identification of one sick cow "out of an abundance
of caution." Europeans would just characterize these
steps as the implementation of the precautionary principle.
I wonder if all these formal assurances create unrealistic
expectations about the safety of our food chain.
For complete list of events, please visit: www.christianfarmers.org/cffo-at-work/workshops/schedule.htm
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