Organic standards, until now set by several independent accreditation agencies across the country, will go national in June.
Michel Saemur of the new Canadian Organic Office in Ottawa explained the program to a group of organic producers here at the GO Organic conference in March. Saemur said the new standards, called the Canadian Organic Regime, were was driven by the organic industry, which pressured the Canadian government for national regulations.
The new regime will eliminate the need for multiple accreditations in the organic sector and will affect all products sold interprovincially, nationally and internationally. Imported products will have to be certified by a regulatory body equivalent to the Canadian Organic Regime.
The government had to create its organic regime in co-operation with already existing regulations. British Columbia and Quebec have their own systems for certifying organics, and there are several certification bodies throughout Canada.
Saemur said the decision to move towards a regulated regime was partly influenced by international trends. He said the regime was necessary to allow Canadian products access to various markets. In the 1990s the government and the organic sector started to set up a regulated organic system, but were largely unsuccessful. In 2003, pressure for an organic system increased, due to regulatory trends and standards in the international marketplace.
In 2006, regulations were first published, but were redrafted and changed, with a new target implementation date of June 30, 2009. The regulations are still being circulated for reviews and comment and are available on the CFIA website.
Existing certifiers remain
The new regime will make use of existing certification structures and bodies, which will be integrated into the regulated regime. Certification will be done by third parties overseen by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Saemur said the Canadian Organic Standard will continue to be under the governance of the Canadian Organic sector, which will review and maintain the development of the standards based on seven organic principles. The standards are not integrated into the new regulations, but are referred to within the regulation and still remain with the industry, he said.
Labelling is the number one way to communicate that a product is organic. The new organic regime will identify the three types of organic product. Products with more than 95 per cent organic ingredients will be labelled “organic” and will be allowed to use the logo of the Canadian Organic Regime. “We will then eliminate all the other terms that confused people,” said Saemur.
Multi-ingredient products with 70 to 95 per cent organic content will be able to use a label declaring organic products contained within. Both 95 per cent organic products and 70 to 95 per cent organic products will need to be certified organic by a CFIA accredited certification body. The name and address of the certification body will also have to appear on the label. The new regime will not allow labels with the words “100 per cent organic, or “certified organic.”
Cosmetics, pet foods, fertilizers, textiles and natural health products are not included in the Canadian Organic Regime, but will still be able to use the term “organic” without certification.