Mandatory labelling of chemically-grown/processed products will bring low-cost organic food

UPDATE: I raised this proposal once more at the 13th National Organic Agriculture Congress, citing my 10th NOAC resolution. Again, the proposal was greeted with resounding applause from the audience. But we must learn from the inaction on the resolution at the 10th NOAC. I propose that for the 14th NOAC in Cagayan de Oro, regional/provincial/sectoral delegations who support this idea draw up a similar resolution. The resolution can cite my 10th NOAC resolution and the 13th NOAC plenary intervention (which was not in the form of a formal resolution) and include a proposal that the National Organic Agriculture Board (NOAB) form and fund a Technical Working Group to move the concept forward. These resolutions can then be submitted at the 14th NOAC, for immediate action.

PROPOSED RESOLUTION ON FOOD LABELLING AT THE 10TH PHILIPPINE ORGANIC AGRICULTURE CONGRESS

RESOLVED, THAT the organic movement pursue as a long-term goal the reorientation of the country’s food labellling laws to base these on the “polluter pays” principle, whi ch says that the consequences of pollution must be paid by the polluters, not by their victims. This means that the burden of testing, inspection, certification and labelling should be borne not by the organic producers who are the victims of agrochemical pollution, but by the chemical producers who pollute our food, our farms, and the environment. Specifically, this means that mandatory labelling should be imposed not on organic products but on chemically-grown/processed products. This approach will completely reverse the economics of food production, because the cost of testing, inspection, certification and labelling will now be borne by chemically-produced, rather than organically-grown food. This will soon drive higher-cost chemically-grown food out of the market.

Some may dismiss this idea as an impossible dream. After all, no country today requires the mandatory labelling of chemically-grown/processed products. Indeed, if we don’t act on dreams, they will never happen. We need to act on our dreams now, so that they will become reality in the future. [No country had banned incinerators before, but we dared to dream that it can happen, and we made the incinerator ban part of our laws. We can do the same thing with the mandatory labelling of chemically-grown/processed products.]

To move this dream closer to reality, this resolution also proposes an intermediate step, to set a precedent that will pave the way to our long-term goal of mandatory labelling of chemically-grown/processed products. This intermediate step is the mandatory labelling of genetically-modified products, which is already the norm in many countries of the world except those which are heavily influenced by the U.S., like the Philippines. A successful lobby for the mandatory labelling of genetically-modified products will set a compelling precedent for the next step: that chemically-grown foods, for precisely the same reasons, should also fall under mandatory labellling.

Then, we will have achieved a more favorable economic context which spares the organic producer from the costs and aggravations of a complicated mandatory labelling regime and consequently makes available for low-income consumers affordable and healthy organic food.

Resolution author:

Roberto Verzola

Coordinator, SRI Pilipinas

October 18, 2013

(Note: This copy contains minor improvements over my original hastily hand-written resolution I read during the Oct. 18 plenary session into the records of the 10th NOAC. It is my impression is that the plenary body accepted the resolution by acclamation. — Obet Verzola)

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