National Standards and Regulations
The Canadian Organic Standards are referenced in the legal text of the Organic Products Regulations. In order to be considered organic under the regulation, products must be certified organic according to the standards. A certifying body that is accredited by a Conformity Verification Body certified by the Canada Food Inspection Agency must carry out this certification.
Part I of the national organic standards is called Organic Production Systems General Principals and Management Standards (CAN/CGSB-32.310-2006). It details the agricultural practices that are acceptable in organic agriculture production systems. Part II is the Organic Production Systems Permitted Substances List (CAN/CGSB-32.311-2006), which lists substances permitted for use by the Canada Organic Regime.
Link to CGSB's website with Organic Production Standards and Permitted Substances List in English.
Standards Development Meeting November 2007, Ottawa.
Who's involved? Download the list (pdf).
Canada has had voluntary national organic standards in place since 1999. In anticipation of the new Canadian regulation, the standards were revised by stakeholders, government, technical committees and working groups and re-released September 2006. The standards are currently undergoing further revision.
The implementation of the new regulation has been delayed from December 14, 2008 to June 30, 2009. The official amendment was published in the Canada Gazette.
The Organic Products Regulations (SOR/2006-338) was published December 14, 2006 in the Canada Gazette (Extra Vol. 140, No. 6). The Canadian organic sector has been granted a two-year transition period before the regulations come into full force by June 30, 2009.
The new regulation will legally require organic products to be certified as organic according to the National Organic Production Standard.
Since December 2006, activities that have taken place include:
- Development of the Canada Organic Office - Operating Manual 2008
- Creation of an Organic Office within the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, governed by internal guidelines developed in the COO Operating Manual
- Revision of the Organic Production Standards
- Revision of the Organic Regulation
- Accreditation of Certification Bodies
View COG's press release about the Regulation here (pdf).
View COG's comments on the Regulation here (pdf).
Canadian law prohibits deceptive labeling of foods in regard to their method of production or other characteristics. Other regulations and agencies that control how organic products in Canada are markets and sold include the Food and Drugs Act, the Consumer Packaging and Labeling Act, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), and Health Canada's Veterinary Drugs Directorate (VDD).
Stream of Commerce
A draft final stream of commerce policy is now available for comment. The stream of commerce policy will dictate how the voluntary organic system in Canada flows into a mandatory system.
It addresses issues such as the status of products already on the shelves or in storage but which have not been certified to Canada’s standards prior to June 30, 2009. It also describes the COO’s compliance enforcement policies for the initial implementation stage following the coming into force of Canada’s new regulations on June 30, 2009.
Canada Organic Regime (COR)
The Canada Organic Regime is the Canadian government’s regulatory system for organic agricultural products. The Canada Organic Regime has been developed to:
- Protect consumers against misleading or deceptive labeling practices;
- Reduce consumer confusion about the definition of organic;
- Facilitate the access of Canadian organic products to foreign markets that require regulatory oversight; and
- Support further development of the domestic market.
Visit the COR website at CFIA.
Canada Organic Office (COO) Operating Manual
Scope of National Standard
The standard applies to agricultural food and food products that are intended for human and livestock consumption. CAN/CGSB-32.310 and 32.311 govern production and processing of these prodcuts. Currently it does not include pet food, fertilizers, fibres, or personal care products, pending development of acceptable industry standards. This is explained in further detail in Section 1 of the organic standard (CAN/CGSB-32-310-2006). Aquaculture is not yet included in the standard, but members of the aquaculture industry, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada are developing organic aquaculture standards.
Mandatory National Standard
Canada has had voluntary national organic standards in place since 1999. The organic regulation, being implemented by June 30, 2009 will reference an updated version of the standard, thus making the standard mandatory under the regulation’s legal stipulations. The standard is mandatory for those who wish to market their product as organic.
As of June 30 2009, the name of the certification body must appear on the label of organic products. If there’s no certifying body, it is not certified organic. At a farmer’s market or a farm-gate, certified organic farmers should have a certificate on display from their certifying body.
Some organic logos you'll see in Canadian groceries stores:
Canadian organic logo - In stores by June 2009!
By June 30 2009, you can start looking for a Canadian organic label and be assured the product is certified to Canadian standards, even on imported products. The label is currently being revised. The use of the official Canadian organic label is voluntary, so it will not appear on all certifed organic products.
History & Development of Regulation in Canada
In Canada, the transition from private to public standards officially began in 1991 with the Canadian Organic Unity Project. This group began advocating for government regulations on organic certification. In 1992, the Canadian Organic Advisory Board (COAB) was established with the goal of developing a national standard. In 1996, the COAB proposed a voluntary standard and accreditation system. The voluntary standard was published in 1999.
In 2003 at the annual Guelph Organic Conference in Guelph, Ontario, major players in the organic sector gathered to once again plan a proposal for government regulation. To this end, the Organic Regulatory Committee was established. After successfully lobbying the government, the Organic Regulation was passed into law on December 14, 2006. The Organic Regulatory Committee has since become the Organic Federation of Canada, which represents the organic sector on issues relating to standards and regulations.
Over the past decade, the market for organic products has grown rapidly. To support the growth of the organic sector, and to protect consumers against false claims, the Canadian government, through stakeholder consultation, has developed the Canadian Organic Standards and the Organic Product Regulations. Currently, the primary government agencies working on the national regulation and standard are the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) as the standards creation arm of the Standards Council of Canada (SCC), the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC). The Canada Organic Office (COO) has been established within the CFIA to enforce the Canada Organic Regime (COR). Industry is involved in the stadnards through the Technical Committee on Organic Agriculture within the Canadian General Standards Board.