What does organic mean?
Organic production is a system of farming that replenishes and maintains soil fertility without the use of toxic and persistent synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. It encourages practices that increase biodiversity and reduce negative environmental impacts, while also supporting animal health and welfare.
The Canadian Organic Standards prohibit:
✖️synthetic fertilizers and toxic, synthetic pesticides;
✖️genetic engineering (GMOs) in seed, feed, and ingredients;
✖️artificial colours, flavours, and preservatives;
✖️growth hormones, routine use of antibiotics, and animal cloning;
Even more important than what organic agriculture doesn’t do is what it does do. Organic farmers cultivate their soil’s fertility, produce healthy food, and support animal welfare by:
✔️ rotating crops to prevent pests and balance and distribute nutrients in the soil;
✔️ composting and using green manures to add nitrogen and organic matter to the soil, keep weeds down and prevent drought and soil erosion;
✔️ using beneficial insects or manual labour to control pests;
✔️ ensuring all livestock have access to pasture, when weather permits;
✔️ including minimum space requirements for all livestock
✔️ and much more.
Beyond the farm, the organic standards apply to the preparing, handling, packaging and transportation of organic products. This includes rules regarding: ingredients; processing aids; cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing; substances for pest control; segregation from non-organic products during handling, transportation and storage; and, much more.
What is organic certification?
Organic certification is a stringent process that requires producers and processors to adhere to a strict set of standards that go above and beyond all of the applicable food safety laws. These include:
- use of land that has been free of synthetic chemicals and fertilizers for at least 3 years.
- detailed record-keeping and regular audits, which means full food traceability - everything that goes into an organic product has to be documented and traceable.
- routine on-site inspections.
What does the organic label mean?
With so many “eco-labels” appearing on the shelves these days it’s hard to know what they all mean. The organic label is the only one whose use is controlled and verifiable through the organic certification process.
Canada's Organic logo is your assurance that the product bearing it has met the Canadian government’s standards for organic products - the Canadian Organic Standards. The logo can be used on products that are 95-100% organic. Products that are 70-95% organic may state that a product is "Made with Organic Ingredients". Those with fewer than 70% may only identify organic ingredients in the ingredient list, but not make an organic claim on the rest of the packaging.
What about organic and GMOs?
All organic products are non-GMO!
Genetically engineered products (GMOs) are prohibited in organic production. This means an organic farmer can't plant GMO seeds, an organic cow can't eat GMO alfalfa or corn and an organic manufacturer can't use any GMO ingredients. Organic farmers and processors must show that they aren't using GMOs and that they are protecting their products from contact with prohibited substances - all the way from farm to table. Find more information on GMOs in Canada on the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network website.
How to report products fraudulently claiming to be organic?
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has added a section to the website of the Canada Organic Regime (COR) allowing anyone to report products that may not be following the regulations. For any product sold in Canada with a suspected fraudulent organic claim, complaints can be filed against the operator (company) holding certification under the COR scope, CFIA-designated Conformity Verification Bodies (CVB), CFIA-accredited Certification Bodies (CB), and the Canada Organic Regime (COR) team.
You can read more here.