When a consumer purchases a tomato labeled as greenhouse grown, he or she should be assured it was grown in a defined greenhouse – that’s the perspective of Certified Greenhouse Farmers, which earlier today called upon the California Department of Food & Agriculture to amend the California Code § 1472.8, which defines greenhouse-grown tomatoes.
California greenhouse tomato growers Casey Houweling, president of Houweling’s Tomatoes, along with Steven Newell, president of Windset Farms, testified in support of the amendment, along with Certified Greenhouse Farmers president Ed Beckman. The trade association – which represents growers of approximately 95 percent of the greenhouse tomatoes grown in California — says the move will help fight product mislabeling, which is becoming an increased problem due to the rising popularity of greenhouse-grown tomatoes, and protect consumers. Specifically, the proposed amendment will clarify the existing code, and provide improved harmonization with efforts at the federal levels in the United States and Canada to establish a definition for hydroponic greenhouse produce.
“This hearing was a vital step toward adopting a uniform standard definition for greenhouse-grown produce nationwide,” said Beckman, “and with the explosive growth of products marketed as greenhouse, it’s critical that ‘greenhouse’ be well defined in order to protect the integrity of the growing process and consumers who purchase greenhouse-grown tomatoes.”
The current code was proposed by the California Tomato Commission in 2004. Since then, greenhouse-grown produce has continued to grow in popularity. Currently, more than 50 percent of tomato sales in supermarkets are those packaged as greenhouse grown, according to Nielsen Perishables Group, using scanner data. Further, within the tomato category, greenhouse tomatoes on the vine are preferred by nearly one out of three shoppers, representing the single highest tomato purchase.
The explosive growth of the category has caused some growers and shippers to mislabel field-grown produce as “greenhouse.” Further, the terms greenhouse grown and protected agriculture are often erroneously used interchangeable.
Protected agriculture is a term used to describe a variety of growing methods, with a primary concern for controlling weather elements. Shade houses, for example, used in the production of field-grown vegetables are considered “protected agriculture” and may provide limited protection from wind and insect pressure, but do not offer the benefits of a true greenhouse.
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 ofsoil, eliminating the possibility for soil-borne contamination and the need for herbicides or soil fumigants. 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, therefore reducing the need for pesticides. Alternatively, greenhouse growers use biological controls, predator insects and other controls whenever possible.
Certified Greenhouse Farmers is advocating for the following amendments (amendments bolded and underlined).
§ 1472.8. Tomatoes, Greenhouse Grown Defined:
Tomatoes labeled with the term “greenhouse grown” shall be considered mislabeled unless tomatoes are grown in a fully enclosed permanent aluminum or fixed steel structure clad in glass or impermeable plastic using automated irrigation and climate control, including heating and ventilation capabilities, in an artificial medium that substitutes for soil using hydroponic methods.
All Certified Greenhouse Farmers’ members meet the definition outlined in the proposed amendment. 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 SCS Global Services, a global leader in independent certification of environmental, sustainability and food qualityclaims.
Certified Greenhouse Farmers’ mission is to protect the greenhouse growing process. Comprised of Houweling’s Tomatoes, Nature Fresh, Village Farms and Windset Farms, with new members undergoing certification, the organization is the voice of Certified Greenhouse growers, and educates trade and consumer audiences about the value of Certified Greenhouse products. Through its rigorous audits and controls, Certified Greenhouse Farmers produce the “best of the best” in consistent product quality, food safety and environmental performance. For more information, visit www.CertifiedGreenhouse.org <http://www.CertifiedGreenhouse.org> .