History of Organics in Canada
The Canadian organic sector has been developing national organic standards since the 1990’s with the first standards published in 1999. However, since these standards were voluntary up until June 2009, not all certifying bodies and provinces chose to use the same standards. Canada enacted the federal Organic Products Regulations (OPR) in June 2009. The OPR legally require all organic products in Canada to be certified according to the Canadian Organic Standards (COS) if they are traded across provincial or international borders or use the Canada Organic Logo. This includes having the certification carried out by a certifying body that is accredited by a conformity verification body recognized by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). These standards were most recently updated in 2011.
Basics of Organic Production
Organic standards are based on the following general principles:
- Protect the environment, minimize soil degradation and erosion, decrease pollution, optimize biological productivity and promote a sound state of health
- Maintain long-term soil fertility by optimizing conditions for biological activity within the soil
- Maintain biological diversity within the system
- Recycle materials and resources to the greatest extent possible within the enterprise
- Provide attentive care that promotes the health and meets the behavioural needs of livestock
- Prepare organic products, emphasizing careful processing, and handling methods in order to maintain the organic integrity and vital qualities of the products at all stages of production
- Rely on renewable resources in locally organized agricultural systems
- No synthetic chemicals including pesticides, fertilizers, hormones, and antibiotics
- No genetically-modified organisms (GMO’s)
- No irradiation or sewage sludge
- No synthetic processing substances, aids and ingredients, and food additives including sulphites, nitrates and nitrites
Product labels can be confusing, particularly since new ones seem to pop up every day. The safest choice is to purchase products with the Canada Organic Logo or the USDA Organic Logo on them since these products are certified organic. Products bearing a “Made with Organic” on their label must contain at least 70% organic ingredients. When it comes to organic produce, look for five-digit PLU (price look-up) codes that begin with the number 9.
Genetically modified products are not required by law to be labeled, so they can be difficult to identify. However there is a list of product ingredients which are often genetically modified. If you see any of the following ingredients on the labels of products you consume, and the ingredient is not labeled as non-GMO or organic, it is likely genetically modified.
- Corn syrup, starch, oil, meal, gluten
- Soy lecithin, protein, flour, isolate and isoflavone
- Sugar (unless it is made from cane)
- Vegetable oil
- Cottonseed oil