Organic standard update called overdue

Two-year review | Ottawa kicks in $297,000 to help the Organic Federation of Canada pay for the review

Canada’s organic standard is getting a long overdue overhaul.


The federal government is providing the Organic Federation of Canada with $297,000 to kick-start a two-year review of the standard.


Federation president Ted Zettel said the review needs to address hundreds of outstanding issues to get the national standard up-to-date.


“Like it or not, a sound regulatory environment is really crucial to doing business,” he said. “Zettel said a robust and transparent national standard is imperative for maintaining a Canadian organic food and beverage market worth $3 billion in 2012 and exports worth $458 million.


Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) rules state that the Canadian Organic Standards must be reviewed every five years. The current standard was published in 2006, so it is two years overdue for a review.


The government pays for a maximum of 75 percent of the $379,000 required for the process, which means $82,000 has to come from the organic industry.


“We’re engaging with everybody we can think of to raise that money.”


Less than half of the required amount has been raised so far.


The review is expected to take two years and will include three meetings of the CGSB’s technical committee.


On the agenda will be 187 cases that people involved in the organic industry have brought before the Standards Interpretation Committee because of a lack of clarity in the ex-isting standard. 


The committee recommended to the CGSB that a wording change in the standard was necessary in 48 of those cases.


Zettel said most of the cases involve different interpretations of a clause by two or more certification bodies, which causes farmers to lodge complaints about an unlevel playing field.


For example, the existing standard prohibits an apiary from being located within three kilometres of prohibited substances such as pesticides. The idea was to keep organic honey production away from conventional agriculture. However, what about a nearby homeowner who sprays a flower bed with Roundup?


“The ideal is that you have clear standards and that everybody plays by the same rules,” said Zettel.


The revised standard is expected to be published in August 2015.