A sign says the fruits and vegetables for sale are organic, but what does that really mean and according to whom? The B.C. government is answering those questions by requiring all food and beverage products marketed as “organic” in B.C. to be certified under either a provincial or national certification program. Beginning in 2018, producers, processors and handlers of organic food and beverage products including farm gate sales, farmers’ markets and retail stores will require documentation verifying their products have accredited organic certification.
Both the provincial and federal certification programs follow the general principles, management standards and use of permitted substances established by the Canada Organic Standards. Operators producing and selling their organic products strictly within B.C. will require provincial certification. B.C. companies with customers in other provinces or countries will require certification by a federally accredited certification body, just as they do today.
“There are growing domestic and international market opportunities for B.C. organic food, and beverage producers and consumers want certainty when making a purchase,” says B.C. Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick. “Requiring certification brings that certainty to B.C. consumers. If the word organic is on the food or beverage product – it will be certified as organic.”
Requiring certification is a result of the B.C. government’s consultations with the Certified Organic Associations of BC (COABC), organic growers, and other stakeholders from January to March 2015, in which almost 80% of certified organic growers supported the move to required certification. Based on additional input received during the consultations, the B.C. government will also work with COABC to provide assistance to help interested farmers and growers achieve or transition to organic certification by 2018. To further attract new and existing producers to consider becoming certified organic growers, the B.C. government is contributing partner funding for 10 COABC-led seminars.
The B.C. government has also provided about $60,000 to support the COABC’s partnership with the Canadian Organic Trade Association’s “Think Before you Eat” campaign. The campaign will offer British Columbians information on what to look for when buying organic products, as well as promoting made-in-BC organic food and beverage products at farmers’ markets and retailers in the coming months.
In January 2015 the B.C. government committed to working with COABC to strengthen the awareness and reputation of B.C.’s organic food and beverages, locally, across Canada, and around the world.
- Operators producing and selling their organic food and beverage products strictly within B.C. will require provincial certification through the Organic Agricultural Products Certification Regulation.
- B.C. companies with customers in other provinces or countries will require federal certification through the Organic Products Regulation.
- The provincial certification program follows the same standard as the national program, but with streamlined record keeping and documentation practices.Provincial certification offers growers access to the local organic market with less paperwork, while still ensuring B.C. consumers have certainty when purchasing organic foods.
- The B.C. government will also be developing an enforcement program to be implemented in 2018.
- Currently, companies with organic food or beverage products produced, handled, and sold exclusively within B.C., may choose to participate in the BC Certified Organic Program, which is administered by the COABC.
- COABC members include 564 farms producing certified organic goods and 96 farms in transition to producing certified organic goods.
- The B.C. organic sector is varied and includes livestock, dairy, vegetables, fruit and berries, and spice and herb producers, grains and seeds and many specialty value added products.
- Building the local market for B.C. foods, including the organic industry, is a key commitment of government’s Agrifoods Strategy to lead the agrifoods sector growth into a $14-billion-a-year industry by 2017.