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Canadian Organic Standards

The Canadian organic sector has been developing national organic standards since the mid-1990's with the first standards published in 1999. Click here for a history of standards development in Canada. However, since these standards were voluntary up until June 2009, not all certifying bodies and provinces chose to use the same standards. For instance, both British Columbia and Quebec chose to maintain their own provincial standards.


Starting July 1, 2009, everything changed. The Canadian Organic Standards (COS) are now referenced in the legal text of the Organic Products Regulations (OPR). In order to be considered organic under the Organic Products Regulations, products must be certified organic according to the Canadian Organic Standards. The certification must be carried out by a certifying body (CB) that is accredited by a conformity verification body (CVB) recognized by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).


The COS are maintained by the Technical Working Group on Organic Agriculture, a working group of the Canadian General Standards Board.

Photo: People involved in Standards Development

Standards Development Meeting November 2007, Ottawa.

Download list of Organic Committee members (Excel)


Leading up to the OPR, Canadian Organic Growers received funding to hold three meetings of the Working Group in order to get the standards ready for regulation. This involved moving towards harmonization of the COS with the standards of our key trading partners, changing the language to comply with government regulation and getting rid of any inconsistencies within the two parts of the standards.

Since this time, the CFIA has provided some funding to the Canadian General Standards Board to make additional changes to the ballot. We awaiting publication of the next version of the standards. Unfortunately, the organic sector has not yet secured stable funding to carry out ongoing maintenance of the COS.

The COS consists of two components:

Part I of the COS - the Organic Production Systems General Principles and Management Standards (CAN/CGSB-32.310-2006) details the practices that are acceptable in organic agriculture production systems.


Part II of the COS -  the Organic Production Systems Permitted Substances Lists (PSL) (CAN/CGSB-32.311-2006) lists substances that are permitted for use in the Canadian Organic Regime.


To help users understand the intent of the organic standards, Canadian Organic Growers has produced two guidance documents related to Part I and Part II of the standards.

To view these documents, click on the links below

Guidance 32.310 (Part I)

Guidance 32.311 (Part II)



Scope of Organic Standards

The Organic Products Regulations (OPR) (SOR/2006-338) apply to agricultural products intended for human and livestock consumption that are marketed as organic AND traded across provincial or international borders, or that bear the Canada Organic Logo. They implement CAN/CGSB-32.310-2006 and 32.311-2006, which are standards that govern the production and processing of these products. They do not currently cover pet food, fertilizers, fibres, or personal care products, pending development of acceptable industry standards. This is detailed in CAN/CGSB-32-310-2006. Standards for aquaculture are not yet included, but these are being developed by members of the aquaculture industry, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC).


Standards Interpretation

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, in partnership with the Organic Federation of Canada, has developed the Organic Standards Interpretation Committee (SIC). The objective of the Committee is to provide, to the Canada Organic Office, interpretive guidance on issues related to the National Standards for Organic Agriculture (CAN/CGSB 32.310 and CAN/CGSB 32.311).


Click here to view the questions and answers which have been processed to date by SIC.

The proposed responses are subject to a 60 day comment period. All comments regarding these answers should be sent to

L’Agence canadienne d’inspection des aliments, en partenariat avec la Fédération biologique du Canada,  a mis sur pied le Comité d’interprétation des normes biologiques (CIN). L’objectif de ce comité est de conseiller le Bureau Bio-Canada sur l’interprétation de questions relatives à la Norme nationale sur l’agriculture biologique (CAN/CGSB 32.310 et CAN/CGSB 32.311).


Les réponses proposées aux questions soulevées par les exploitants au sujet de la Norme nationale sur les Systèmes de production biologique sont énoncées ci-dessous. Ces réponses sont publiées pour une période de 60 jours aux fins d’examen et de commentaires. Tous les commentaires relatifs à ces réponses doivent être envoyés à l’adresse

Le Comité d'interprétation des normes se rencontre à chaque mois pour discuter des questions qui lui sont soumises. Une seconde liste de questions fait actuellement l'objet de discussions et les réponses du Comité à ces questions additonnelles seront publiées prochainement.



The concept of international standards equivalency is discussed in more detail the section on the Organic Products Regulations. Canada has signed its first equivalency agreement with the U.S. and CFIA is now working with the European Union.

Canada - European Union Standards Comparison

The Permitted Substances Working Group has conducted a Canada - EU standards comparison. The results of the study are accessible below in PDFs:


Amending the Standards

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