“Organic production is a holistic system designed to optimize the productivity and fitness of diverse communities within the agro-ecosystem, including soil organisms, plants, livestock and people. The principal goal of organic production is to develop operations that are sustainable and harmonious with the environment.”
– (CAN/CGSB-32.310 – 2020), General principles and management standards
Organic agriculture in Canada is governed by rigorous standards that outline the principles, practices and permitted substances used in organic production systems. All products certified under the Canada Organic Regime and the BC Certified Organic Program must meet or exceed these standards.
The Canadian Organic Standards reference the following documents:
The 2020 Canadian Organic Standards were published on Dec. 11, 2020. Organic operators had a full year, as of the publication date, to adjust their practices to reflect the new requirements. Details on the transition can be found on the Organic Federation of Canada’s website.
The Canadian Organic Standards must be reviewed and amended every five years to clarify any pieces that were causing confusion, to take into account submissions received from industry and organic stakeholders, to ensure standards compliance with Canada’s organic trading partners, and to ensure the standards remain up to date with the latest research and technologies.
The most recent revision of the Canadian Organic Standards began in September 2018 and closed with the launch of the 2020 Canadian Organic Standards in December 2020.
The Canadian Organic Standards are a challenging read, but understanding them is essential to organic integrity. That’s why the Organic Federation of Canada, in partnership with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, created the Standards Interpretation Committee.
This advisory body is made up of elected members from across Canada’s organic sector and uses its collective knowledge to explain the meaning of and reasoning behind the standards. The main objective of the Standards Interpretation Committee is to help guide the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in its enforcement of the standards, but the interpretation process involves stakeholders of all levels.
The Standards Interpretation Committee posts 30-day comment periods for newly proposed questions and answers. Feedback from conformity verification bodies, certifying bodies, operators and other organic stakeholders is encouraged! View the list of current comment periods here.
The Organic Federation of Canada sends out comment period notifications, as well as other news pertaining to the Canadian Organic Standards, via the Info-Bio newsletter. Sign up here.
Questions and answers that have gone through the 30-day comment period are posted here.
If you’d like to learn more about the standards review process, check out these articles from the BC Organic Grower:
The Canadian Organic Growers (COG) has developed a helpful Guide to the Canadian Organic Standards which includes explanations, background information and specific examples.
Still unsure? If your question remains unanswered, please ask your certifying body.