Canadian Organic Standards and Regulations
In Canada, organic agriculture systems have been regulated since 2009 while organic aquaculture systems have been regulated since 2021.
Canadian Organic Standards
The Canadian Organic Standards define the practices that must be followed by organic producers and processors. They are reviewed and renewed every five years. The Canadian Organic Standards are available free of charge (as electronic documents) through the Government of Canada.
The Canadian Organic Standards for agriculture are made up of two documents:
Organic Production Systems: General Principles and Management Standards (CAN/CGSB 32.310) and Organic Production Systems: Permitted Substances Lists (CAN/CGSB 32.311)
The Canadian Organic Standards for aquaculture are in one document:
Organic Production Systems: Aquaculture - General Principles, Management Standards and Permitted Substances Lists (CAN/CGSB 32.312)
Regulations and Enforcement
Organic food products are regulated under Part 13 of the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations which cover food for human consumption, seed, and feed for livestock. The Canada Organic Regime is part of these regulations; it defines the organic certification system and is used to regulate all parties involved in certification.
Several parties are involved in making sure that Canada Organic Regime requirements are met:
Canadian Food Inspection Agency
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) oversees and enforces the Canada Organic Regime. This includes designating Conformity Verification Bodies and accrediting Certification Bodies. The CFIA, along with the Canada Organic Trade Association, establishes organic equivalency agreements with other countries allowing international trade and recognition of organic status across borders.
Conformity Verification Bodies
Conformity Verification Bodies assess and recommend Certification Bodies to the CFIA.
Certification Bodies make sure operators are in compliance with the Canadian Organic Standards.
Operators (producers and processors) produce products in compliance with the Canadian Organic Standards.
The Canada Organic Regime requirements apply to any product that has an organic claim on the label and is sold between provinces or territories or imported; or displays the Canada Organic Logo on the label.
Because the regulations do not apply to sales within a province or territory, several provinces have implemented provincial legislation restricting the use of “organic” to certified organic products. In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have provincial regulations while Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador do not.
However, in addition to provincial legislation, two federal acts - The Federal Food and Drugs Act and the Consumer Packaging and Labeling Act - give the CFIA authority to investigate complaints of misrepresentation at any level.
In most cases, regulation is complaint-based. If someone sees a case of false or misleading organic claims, they may file a complaint with their provincial and/or federal organization. See Complaints.
Standards Interpretation Committees
The Standards Interpretation Committees exist to answer questions about the Standards. Questions can come from the CFIA, certifying bodies, producers, and others involved in organic certification.
The Organic Agriculture Standards Interpretation Committee (Agri-SIC) works in partnership with the Organic Federation of Canada (OFC) to answer questions related to the Canadian Organic Standards for agriculture (CAN/CGSB 32.310 and CAN/CGSB 32.311).
The Organic Aquaculture Standards Interpretation Committee (Aqua-SIC) works in partnership with the Canadian Organic Seafood Association (COSA) to answer questions related to the Canadian Organic Standards for aquaculture (CAN/CGSB 32.312).
The committees meet periodically to develop answers to the questions posed. The OFC and COSA post the questions and their interpretation, and invite public comment. If there is no strong opposition, the interpretation is accepted as an official interpretation of the Canadian Organic Standards.
Questions for the SICs can be submitted to: OPR-RPB@inspection.gc.ca