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Richmond company asks government to define ‘sustainable agriculture’

Nature's Path said regenerative organic farming is key
Nature’s Path Foods is a family-owned company that has been producing solely organic food since 1985, founded by founded by Arran and (first from left) Ratana Stephens (third from left).

A Richmond-based organic food producer wants the federal government to better define sustainable farming and implement standards to stop “greenwashing.”

Representatives of Nature’s Path recently met with the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) branch of the Canadian government to help define “sustainable agriculture” in its upcoming strategy.

Manuel Gorrin with Nature’s Path said many farming and food sector companies claim to be sustainable or regenerative, but they are still using pesticides and fertilizers.

“Unfortunately, some companies are using that terminology and, in the meantime, keep using toxic inputs, such as glyphosate, toxic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers,” Gorrin told the Richmond News.

“If there are no criteria to follow, you can say whatever you want, and there's no validation. That’s why it's so important to have a science-based, system-based approach when it comes to agriculture.”

The Sustainable Agriculture Strategy (SAS), currently being developed by the federal Ministry of Agriculture, is aimed to set a common direction to improve environmental performance in the sector and support farmers’ livelihoods.

“This is the moment for us to speak up and tell Agriculture Canada, we care about organic, we care about defining what sustainable means in organic agriculture,” Gorrin told the Richmond News.

“We really need to have a clear definition in Canada for what sustainable agriculture means to us as a country.”

He said the company believes the key to achieving sustainable agriculture is through regenerative organic farming, which prioritizes building soil health as a way to fight climate change and pull more carbon from the atmosphere using very specific farming techniques.

In a presentation to government officials, a representative from Nature's Path emphasized the importance of using “time-tested benchmarked systems” that codify and standardize best practices to ensure industry performance, market development and accountability across the Sustainable Agriculture Strategy.  

The company also proposed a few key components it defined as guidelines for the development of the strategy. These included recognizing regenerative organic farming as the best agricultural system, rewarding early-adopters of system-based and climate-friendly farming practices, incentivizing transitioning to organic or similar systems through certification or mentorship programs, and setting standards and an assurance system to prevent misleading claims and greenwashing.