The newly proposed definition is embraced by U.S. and Canadian greenhouse interests and aims to be a harmonized U.S. definition for greenhouse grown tomatoes, Beckman said.
“The concern is, that unlike for certified organic, there really isn’t a definition in place,” Beckman said. He said Mexican field tomatoes have been sold into the market place as greenhouse grown.
“There is evidence of hundreds of thousands of pounds of tomatoes being mislabeled under the California code,” he said. “It is simply time to bring a definition to the marketplace so that a consumer who wants to buy a greenhouse tomato has some assurance that it is actually a greenhouse tomato that they are purchasing,’ Beckman said. USDA statistics on imports of greenhouse tomatoes are unreliable, since it seems some field grown tomatoes are being imported as greenhouse product.
Beckman said the effort to revise the greenhouse definition is separate from the dispute about the suspension agreement, but he said there are issues that tie into growers’ concern about Mexican tomatoes.
“There are issues related to how the suspension agreement currently impacts the greenhouse industry in the U.S., and yes, there have been reports that we have had product that has been crossed into the U.S. that has been crossed as greenhouse simply because the (suspension agreement) price matrix is based not upon the product value but the weight of the carton,” he said.
In addition, he said the Florida industry has a marketing order that has minimum quality standards for tomatoes that also apply to Mexican tomato imports during the Florida marketing window. However, that marketing order doesn’t apply to greenhouse tomatoes, so Beckman said Mexican field tomatoes may also be mislabeled as greenhouse to circumvent the marketing order as well. The definition may assist in the development of tomato safety metrics, Beckman said.