Aquaculture, including aquatic animal and plant production, as well as plants grown under aquaponics systems, will soon be integrated to the Organic Products Regulations (OPR). The OPR will reference the Organic Aquaculture Standard with which aquaculturists have to comply to have their products certified and labeled as organic.
Aquaponics combines aquaculture with the cultivation of plants in a symbiotic relationship. Fish manure as well as feed waste are metabolized by bacteria and absorbed by plants grown on the surface of the aquaculture tank. When absorbing nutrients, plants also filter the water that is recirculated in the system.
Principles guiding organic aquaculture and aquaponics are similar to the principles established in organic agriculture production: GMOs, synthetic growth regulators, antibiotics, clones and other synthetic substances are prohibited.
But, there is also a significant difference. The roots of terrestrial plants grown in aquaponics systems are immersed in water. This contradicts clause 7.5.3 of the agricultural organic standard, CAN/CGSB-32.310-2015, which prohibits hydroponics and promotes soil fertility management, rather than the ‘cultivation of plants in aqueous nutrient solutions without the aid of the soil’ (Terms and definitions -3.29).
The OFC wants to know your opinion. Is aquaponics different from hydroponics?
Does organic lettuce grown in water in symbiosis with cultured fish meet organic consumer expectations? How can we reconcile the marketing of a the same product certified under two different organic standards that have contradictory clauses?
Two certification models for small-scale farms are proposed
As part of the review of the Canadian Organic Standards the Organic Federation of Canada struck a working group to look at the issues of Small Scale Organic Certification.
A number of options were considered. After reviewing the concerns and hopes of the certified and not-certified organic farmers, the working group proposes two models: a self declaration organic pledge and a peer review certification process. See the proposals below.
These two proposals would work for organic farmers who direct market their products. It is important to note that the pledge and peer review proposals use the Canadian Organic Standards. These proposals are not a change to the standard. They are an alternative way of documenting compliance with the standard from the existing 3rd party certification process required for interprovincial and international trade. They would not be useable to make an “organic claim” for sales to retailers, wholesalers or chefs who would be reselling the farm products.
Please take a look at the proposals for the self declaration and peer review proposals and share your thoughts and comments.
MODEL 1 – Proposal for the Self-Declaration Model
The Self-Declaration model of Organic Certification is a model based on trust and the integrity of farmers who use organic principles as a statement of their values. Producers pledge their adherence to the Canadian Organic Standards through both an online format and in their direct-to-consumer marketing efforts. With this Organic Pledge, producers open up their farm and practices to the scrutiny of their customers and other farmers.
- Only produce sold directly to the final consumer by the farmer (and/or their employees) can be identified as “Organically Pledged.” Restaurants, retailers and processors are not final consumers, and thus 3rd party certification is necessary when marketing organic products to them.
- Farmers using the Organic Pledge must prove understanding of the current Canadian Organic Standards (COS) and identify all the Standards that pertain to their businesses. This may be done through an in-person or online workshop. They must maintain their knowledge of the standards as the standards are updated. Once the farmer has successfully completed such a workshop, they must list at least 2 organic farmers (who are either 3rd party certified organic or approved to use the organic pledge) who can serve as mentors when needed.
- A farmer who wants to use the Organic Pledge must complete a Self-Assessment which identifies and describes their farm operation as well as cross-reference the relevant sections of the COS to show an understanding of the COS and how it applies to their operation. This must also include reasonable predictions of what types of inputs will be required, where they will come from and that they are permitted in organic systems. Any purchased inputs used should be listed on the OrganicInputs.ca website or have an organic certification seal.
- Farmers using the Organic Pledge will need to pay an annual renewal fee to cover the costs of administration and have an up-to-date pledge (for the current year) on display at their marketing sites as well as on-line (through, for example, their website if they have one). The content of the pledge is public (including the farm’s Self-Assessment and mentors) and the list of all farmers who have signed the pledge is public.
Read more about this model – click here.
MODEL 2 – Peer Review Model
Peer review certification would be a useful tool for provinces seeking to regulate the use of “organic” but concerned about the effects of adopting the COR on small direct market farms. Several surveys of this farm demographic in BC, NS, and nationally by this Working Group, have received the clear message that COR certification does not meet the needs of these farms. Those provinces in which COR certification is the only option have also observed many small farms dropping organic certification and opting for terms such as “uncertified organic”, “natural”, or simply “local”.
To address the needs of smaller-scale farms marketing their products directly to local consumers, the Small-scale Certification Working Group proposes that provinces draft legislation that incorporates peer certification for direct market farms, thereby keeping these farms in the organic family. Here are some of the benefits of peer review certification for direct market farms:
- Reduced Bureaucracy: Farms that market direct locally do not require complicated 3rd party certification procedures designed to maintain organic integrity through extended supply chains.
- Reduced Cost: Without the burden of international compliance audits and by the very nature of peer volunteers being incorporated into model, the cost of peer certification can be significantly less.
- Simplicity: Local peer-reviewed certification relies more on trust and community oversight as a way to assure compliance rather than extensive record-keeping.
- Building Peer Community: Instead of sending paid inspectors, the annual farm visits would be conducted by nearby farmers and or consumer representatives on a volunteer basis which has the added benefits of sharing knowledge & understanding and building the organic community.
- Empowerment: The democratic structure of a peer review model and the fact that application reviews, inspections, and the overall running of the organization are up to the members builds collective responsibility and capacity.
Read more about this model – click here.
We appreciate getting your input!
Please take a look at the proposals for the self declaration and peer review proposals and share your thoughts and comments.
Local +organic = a win-win situation for growers, consumers and the environment.
Small-scale organic farmers represent the face of the Canadian organic industry—at the farmers’ market, CSA drop-off and at the restaurant back door. Today, public on-farm exposure often happens through harvest days and other events offered by small farms.
Many of these farmers, however, are not certified organic. The typical small-scale farmer depends on direct marketing relationships—their sales pitch cultivates and educates buyers interested in supporting environmentally sound farming methods. For these growers, the expense and effort of certification isn’t justifiable, since attaining certified organic status doesn’t significantly increase sales or the trust already earned from buyers.
In the spring of 2014, the Working Group on Small Scale Organic Certification (WGSSOC) administered a survey to small-scale farmers. 200 responses were received. The data highlights how the current “one size fits all” model of organic certification is often not feasible for small-scale operators.
Meanwhile, “opting out” is far from optimal. The split among organic producers (certified vs. non-certified) confuses customers, who are still learning what organic agriculture is all about, and why it matters. Survey respondents cited concerns that the decision of small farmers not to certify has hindered the growth of the organic movement.
Building on its survey data, the WGSSOC has drafted two organic certification models that aim to be attainable for a small-scale producer focusing mainly on direct sales (farm-gate, CSA, farmer’s market, etc.): the Peer Certification Model and the Self-Declaration Model.
For both models, features are:
- Simple online application
- Can be used only in jurisdictions without a provincial organic regulation.
- All documentation pertains to small, diversified operations engaging in direct sales.
- Bureaucratic overhead is reduced.
“Certified Local Organic” (CLO)— The Peer Certification Model
Annual on-farm inspections are conducted by peers. Compliance with the Canada Organic Standard is verified online by a third-party certification body.
- Records and verification reports are accessible and available online.
- Annual certification costs based on gross sales of organic product.
- BUT: Peer verification of farms in remote areas may be difficult to arrange.
“Organic Affidavit (OA)”—The Self-Declaration model
Producers publicly pledge to understand and follow the Canada Organic Standard.
- Applications and pledges can be viewed online.
- Low annual certification costs.
- BUT: Model may not be accepted by the rest of the organic producer community.
SHARE YOUR PERSPECTIVE!
Would the self declaration or peer review model be something that feels more appropriate for your farm? Do these models address the concerns and needs you have around certification? If so, which one would be the most appropriate?
Your input will inform WGSSOC’s presentation of these models at the Technical Committee on Organic Agriculture meetings in December 2014 and April 2015.
Needing additional information? Click here to access documentation about Small-Scale Certification.
The use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) is forbidden by all organic standards across the world. Nevertheless GE crops are developing and spreading in many countries. Canada is one of the main GE crops producers, along with US, Brazil, Argentina, China and India.
As the bees fly, the wind blows, the water flows and the seeds germinate and cross-pollinate, organic crops can potentially be contaminated by GMOs. In fact, the report from an Organic Value Chain Roundtable initiated study, named Challenges and approaches in mitigating risks associated with the adventitious presence of GM products in organic crop production in Canada, describes how cash crops such as corn, soya, wheat, canola and alfalfa are naturally “exchanging” genes (cross-pollination) , and how gene flow can affect the integrity of organic crops grown in the neighbourhood of GE crops.
In Canada, organic growers carry the entire burden of segregating and protecting their crop from GMO contamination. If their crops become contaminated, they alone bear the economical impact of the loss of the organic certification. This study explores solutions and suggests recommendations to protect the integrity of organic crops and compensate for economic losses due to unintended contamination. An industry-led task force is proposing to support the three following recommendations
- The government should implement compulsory best practices for GMO users, which would place the responsibility on them for preventing GMO contamination. Agricultural practices would include establishing adequate buffer-zones around the GMO crops to protect surrounding areas.
- Modernizing the GMO government approval process to include meaningful environmental risk assessments, consideration of economic impact of cross presence of GMO on non users, and implement the overdue courtesy to Canadian consumers of mandatory labelling of foods containing GMO.
- Government should manage a fund financed by the biotech industry which would compensate organic producers for damages associated with contamination, such as the loss of organic markets or costs of product rejection.
Do do you agree with those recommendations?
Do you have GMO contamination issues or concerns on your own operation?
What would help you prevent and mitigate GMO contamination?
Please let us know if you what you think. Thanks!
No “Certified Organic” claim for products certified under the Organic Products Regulations in Canada: how does it impact the market?
Pour la version française, cliquez ici
On the Canada Organic Office website, the directive is very clear:
“As all organic products, under the Canada Organic Regime, must be certified by a Canadian Food Inspection Agency accredited certification body, products bearing the claim “certified organic” are considered misleading. Having only some products labelled “certified organic”, while others aren’t, may mislead consumers into believing that products not bearing this claim are not certified. The statement “Certified by” immediately followed by the name of the certification body is acceptable as it denotes who has certified the product.”
So, when an organic product complies with the OPR, it can only be labelled as “organic”. But as the intraprovincial market is not regulated under the OPR, many consumers are looking for the phrase “Certified Organic” as a way to make sure that the local product that they buy is really organic. It helps them distinguishing the real “certified organic” product from the “organic” one that local farmers can label as organic without any certification.
How are operators coping with this labelling issue? Are the different rules applying to interprovincial and intraprovinal markets confusing consumers who look primarily for the phrase “certified organic” to help them make their purchasing decisions? Does that create an unfair advantage to imports which continue to use “certified organic” all over their packaging?
You are invited to post your comment on this issue! Thanks for your participation!
No Intraprovincial Organic Regulations in Canada: what is the impact on the organic sector development?
The Canadian Organic Products Regulations (OPR) were implemented in June 2009 but they do not cover organic products produced and sold within the same province. The OPR only apply to products that are traded on interprovincial and international markets.
So since the last two years, consumers in Canada can buy certified organic products complying with the OPR requirements, or organic products that are not certified because they are grown and sold without crossing any provincial borders. Quebec is the only province where the “organic” designation is strictly regulated. In British Columbia, the terms “BC Certified Organic” are protected, but the single claim “organic” is not covered under BC voluntary certification system.
What is the impact of not having organic products regulated and certified in intraprovincial markets? Does it reduce consumer confidence in the organic designation, or can it have an impact on the value of the organic premium?
Should intraprovincial claims about organic production be just as verifiable as international claims?
What are the producers of certified organic products experiencing when sharing market space with operators selling organic products that are not certified?
Two years have passed since the implementation of the OPR and the OFC thinks that time has come to assess the impact of the lack of intraprovincial regulation on the Canadian organic sector.
You are invited to post your comment on this issue; you can require your name not to be added when your comment will be posted. Thanks for your participation.
Call for your testimonial – Blog to be heard!
Genetically modified (GM) alfalfa has been approved for planting in the US and is one step away from being sold as seed in Canada. The Organic Federation of Canada joins the effort of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) to collect organic farmers’ concerns about the foreseen impact of GM alfalfa on their operations.
The testimonials and comments received will help the sector prepare a strategy when the new House of Commons Agriculture Committee will resume its activities after the election of the next government.
So, please describe what would be the impact of the introduction of GM alfalfa on your farming operations, with your name and region. Thanks in advance for your precious cooperation.