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New regulations and a new national label for Canadian organic products will give consumers the assurance that the food they are buying meets the minimum national organic standard of Canada. The new regulations have been drafted in a way that allows their scope to be expanded in the future. This includes livestock feed and aquaculture but does not include pet food, landscape certification, fibre products, and cosmetics.

In April, the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency pre-published new national organic regulations and labels for organic products that will represent a minimum national standard for Canada.

The revised regulations have undergone legal review and are now open for comment from trade partners, the World Trade Organization, and all Canadians. Two federal government departments–International Trade Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada–have submitted the regulations to trading partner countries in the European Union and elsewhere in the world. Together, these agencies have begun working on system equivalency agreements.

National Organic Office in Ottawa

Revised regulations establish a national organic office in Ottawa at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). This national office will negotiate memorandums of understanding with the provinces and other government departments so that regulations operate consistently across the country. These memorandums of understanding will determine the extent to which the province or the federal government will manage the organic regulation within each jurisdiction.

What Will the New Organic Regulations Regulate?

New regulations have been drafted in a way that allows their scope to be expanded in the future. The current scope of the regulations is agricultural food and food products. This includes livestock feed and aquaculture but does not include pet food, landscape certification, fibre products, and cosmetics.

New regulations also prescribe that the national organic office will approve organic accreditation bodies according to criteria set out in the International Organization for Standardization document, ISO 17011, General Requirements for Bodies Providing Assessment and Accreditation. Accreditation bodies oversee the certification process and must have an office in Canada with Canadian staff.

Licensing and Inspection

Certification bodies, which test and license organic operators, must also be licensed by the national office in Ottawa.

Independent organic inspectors who now verify organic farms and facilities for certification will continue to do so. Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspectors who now routinely monitor retail businesses and food warehouses will add verification of organic integrity to their checklist. The CFIA plans to strengthen verification work with additional integrated training for independent and government inspectors, developed with the Independent Organic Inspectors Association.

A national council that will represent the entire spectrum of the organic industry is being formed to amend the regulations as needed with representatives selected from each province.

The new regulations and a new national label for Canadian organic products will give consumers the assurance that the food they are buying meets the minimum national organic standard of Canada.

What is "Certified Organic"?

A certified organic label means that the product was produced in accordance with specific organic standards as established by a certifying agency and an annual third-party inspection to ensure an audit trail. Documentation is necessary to prove that all levels of production, from farm or garden inputs to processing and transportation, are within certification guidelines.

Certified organic food is grown without petrochemical fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, growth regulators, and antibiotics.

Certified organic production protects the environment and soil fertility, while providing high-quality product and raising livestock in a low-stress environment without the use of growth hormones, animal byproducts, and antibiotics. All feed and processing of the food should be certified organic. Value-added products, like breakfast cereals or mixes, must be processed at processors with organic certification.

Transition from conventional production to certified organic production has a minimum requirement of two years from the last chemical use. Farmers or market gardeners interested in certification as organic producers should contact one of the certifying bodies operating in Canada. Contact them through the Canadian Organic Growers (COG) website at www.cog.ca While you’re visiting the COG website, check out their excellent guide on becoming an organic farmer, Gaining Ground: Making a Successful Transition to Organic Farming.

Send in Your Comments

You are encouraged to read the proposed national organic regulations from the Organic Production System Task Force page on the CFIA website at www.inspection.gc.ca and then send comments to the new national organic office at organicTF@inspection.gc.ca. The regulation will be reworked during a 60-day adaptation period before final publication in the Canada Gazette, becoming law in fall 2006. Share your thoughts at alive.com Forum.

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