Growers seek greenhouse-grown ‘definition’

June 21, 2012
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June 21, 2012, Bellevue, WA — Rising demand for greenhouse-grown produce is causing some growers and distributors to mislabel field-grown produce as greenhouse-grown.

That’s prompted Certified Greenhouse Farmers to call upon the industry and government regulators to create a standard, enforceable definition for what constitutes a “greenhouse.”

Certified Greenhouse Farmers, formerly known as the North American Greenhouse Hothouse Vegetables Association, represents a number of greenhouse growers in Canada, Mexico and the United States.

Unlike certified organic, there is currently no national standard definition for greenhouse production. At the same time, more than 50 per cent of tomato sales in supermarkets are those packaged as greenhouse-grown, according to Perishables Group using A.C. Nielson scanner data.

Consumers pay an average of 40 cents per pound more for greenhouse-grown versus field-grown produce.

Ed Beckman, president of the organization, says a standard definition will protect consumers, and retail and foodservice customers.

“When someone purchases greenhouse-grown produce, he or she should be assured that the produce labelled as greenhouse is, in fact, produced in a defined greenhouse,” said Beckman.

The terms greenhouse-grown and “protected agriculture” are often used interchangeably. However, Certified Greenhouse Farmers members believe “protected agriculture” produce, increasingly grown in Mexico, is very different than greenhouse-grown.

“Protected agriculture is often only concerned with controlling weather elements,” said Beckman. “Shade houses used in the production of field-grown vegetables, for example, may provide limited protection from wind and insect pressure, but, greenhouses, however, provide greater protections in terms of quality, food safety and environmental performance due to the controlled growing environments.”

The controlled conditions of greenhouses allow for consistent year-round growing and protect from animal, pest and disease intrusion. In addition, produce is grown hydroponically, without the use of soil, eliminating the possibility for soil-borne contamination and the need for herbicides or soil fumigants.

Certified greenhouses also use less water, and water can be recycled and recaptured. In addition, greenhouses focus on prevention of pests by keeping them away to begin with, reducing the need for pesticides. Alternatively, greenhouse growers use biological controls, predator insects and other controls whenever possible.

Currently, California is the most aggressive state in defining greenhouse-grown produce, having enacted labelling laws to prevent the marketing of produce as greenhouse-grown unless it is hydroponically grown in an approved structure.

Certified Greenhouse Farmers is advocating for a definition that is based in part on the California definition and is largely harmonized with the definition under consideration by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The definition advocated for by Certified Greenhouse Farmers is as follows:

A fully enclosed permanent aluminum or steel structure clad in either glass or impermeable plastic for the controlled environment growing of certified greenhouse/hothouse vegetables using together: computerized irrigation and climate control systems, including heating and ventilation capability; a soilless medium that substitutes for soil (under the greenhouse/hothouse); hydroponic methods; and Integrated Pest Management, without the use of herbicides.

All Certified Greenhouse Farmers’ members meet this definition. In addition, members must undergo a food safety audit, such as a Global Food Safety Initiative benchmarked food safety audit, and meet a certification standard. Verification of the standard is conducted by Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), a global leader in independent certification of environmental, sustainability and food quality claims.

Certified Greenhouse Farmers’ mission is to protect the integrity of the greenhouse growing process. Comprised of Houwelings Tomatoes, Nature Fresh, Village Farms and Windset Farms, the organization is the voice of Certified Greenhouse growers, and educates trade and consumer audiences about the value of Certified Greenhouse products.

For more information, visit CertifiedGreenhouse.org.

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