Updated organic standards clear committee vote

This is a bumblebee foraging on a cup plant. Cup plants attracted the most bees to wildflower strips, according to a survey done by Cornell researchers. Photo: Heather Grab

By Dave Bedard
Glacier FarmMedia staff

The latest round of revisions for the Canadian Organic Standards has passed a key vote on its way to becoming federal regulation.

Members of the Canadian General Standards Board’s (CGSB) technical committee on organic agriculture voted unanimously last month to approve the draft of the Canadian Organic Standards submitted by the Organic Federation of Canada (OFC).

The draft, as submitted, will therefore be referenced by the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations when published by the CGSB this fall, OFC said in a June 11 release. Final publication is expected in November.

Once the new standards are published, which OFC expects will happen in November, organic operators have one year to bring their farms into compliance, the federation said.

The OFC led the public review component of the process in summer 2019, receiving over 700 comments which it said have “certainly helped to resolve many ambiguities and build consensus on the most contentious issues” in sector working groups’ discussions.

For one example, the new rule emphasizes that “parallel production” — producing organic and non-organic versions of the same commodity on the same farm — is prohibited for most “non-distinguishable” crops.

Of the comments, the OFC said, about half dealt with livestock issues, including matters such as dehorning, feed supplements, weaning practices, transportation conditions and space requirements in barns.

For another example, the use of sugar to feed bees during winter dormancy was discussed. The proposed rule allows honey producers to feed non-organic sugar to organic colonies under certain conditions during winter dormancy — but adds that non-organic sugar can’t be derived from genetically modified sugar beets.

The federation said it already expects some of these issues are likely to return in the next round of review, ahead of the next round of revisions due in 2025. Voting members of the CGSB committee submitted 166 comments, most of which the OFC said related to wording or to practices that should be reviewed for 2025.