New regulation defines 'organic' products, limits chicanery

New regulation defines 'organic' products, limits chicanery

The term “organic” will no longer be able to be used as a marketing ploy thanks to a new Canadian government regulation system that will enshrine in law what “Canadian organic” entails.

The regulation was developed through an extensive consultation process with farmers, processors, certification bodies and exporters/importers.

“The organic regulation will help put Canadian agriculture on the path towards sustainability,” says Janine Gibson, President of Canadian Organic Growers. “The regulation and the new organic label will not only make it easier for Canadian consumers to identify home grown organic products, it will also create new market opportunities that will bring more farmers into the system. That is good news for both the environment and the consumer.”

The new system will allow The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to be the lead agency in regulating the use of the legend “Canadian Organic.”

According to the CFIA, the purpose of the new national organic regime is to “facilitate international market access, provide protection to consumers against deceptive and misleading practices and support the further development of the domestic market.”

Prior to the new regulation, says Laura Telford, executive director of the Canadian Organic Growers, anyone not using a certification body could technically use the term organic, a misleading scenario for the consumer.

Although private certification has always been in place, now there is an enforceable government-backed regulation.

“They can’t use [organic] now or there could be jail time or a big fine,” says Telford. “There’s now a stick to go with our standard.”

“We’re happy with the regulation and standards.”

One important aspect of the regulation, says Telford, executive director of Canadian Organic Growers, is that built into the regulation is a flexible standard, allowing continued debate over substances – such as additives in processed foods – making it a living document to be augmented or altered over time.

Telford explains that as food additives go, few can be considered “organic.” If a very strict standard to processed foods (such as frozen foods) that use the term organic were to be applied strictly, it would disallow many products and do considerable harm to the alternative food industry.

Organic farming and food production has burgeoned in Canada in the last 10 years, growing at a rate of 15 percent annually over that time. In 2004, there were roughly 3650 farms with a collective $986 million retail value.