OTTAWA, Jan. 26, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA), Canada’s national organic industry association, is pleased that the Government of Canada has announced funding for the Canada Organic Standards. This morning, Honourable Minister MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, announced a $250,000 contribution towards the Organic Standards review process, which is estimated to cost approximately $550,000. The organic industry is exploring various options with government to obtain the funds to pay the remaining amount.

Canada’s organic food supply and reputation faces several risks if the Organic Standards review process isn’t fully funded and conducted every five years.

  • Lack of funding would mean a comprehensive review isn’t possible.
  • Standards would become outdated and would have to be withdrawn under the Standards Council of Canada requirements.
  • International trade would be at risk as withdrawn standards would affect the current organic equivalency agreements that Canada has established with 90% of Canada’s organic export markets. Equivalency agreements mean that our Canadian Organic Standards are equivalent to the standards set by our international trading partners, thus streamlining trade.

About Organic Standards
The Organic Products Regulations (OPR) established by the Canadian government requires mandatory certification to the Canadian Organic Standards for food, feed and seed labelled as “organic” in import, export and inter-provincial trade.  Products that meet the Canadian Organic Standards are recognized in-store by Canadian shoppers through use of the Canada Organic logo. The Canada Organic Standards (and logo) give Canadians and international trading partners confidence in the integrity of Canada’s organic food supply. Canadian and international demand for organic food is growing.  Presently, two thirds (66%) of Canadians purchase organic weekly and Canada is the 5th largest organic market in the world, exporting over $600 million globally to meet organic demands. 

The Organic Standards became regulated by the federal government in 2009 despite organic practices and standards being in existence for many years prior under a voluntary system.  The Organic Standards were created as international trade increased for organic products in the early 2000s, major international trading partners threatened Canada that Canadian products would be banned from their countries should an organic regulation not be put in place by the Canadian government. 

After many years of work with industry experts and stakeholders, the Canadian Organic Standards were incorporated into regulation, referenced by law in 2009.  The Canadian government worked with industry and the Canadian General Standards Board of Canada to ensure that Canada’s Organic Standards would be accepted by Canada’s key trade partners, namely the European Union, Japan and the USA and compliant with ISO criteria.

The standards must be reviewed and updated every five years as best practice and to keep the standards compliant with international norms. The current organic standards review must be complete by 2020.

The original estimated cost of the Standards Review was $1 million and was based on the total cost of the review completed in 2015 which was the first comprehensive review since the creation of the standard in 2006.  The 2020 review is not expected to be as extensive as prior reviews and can employ other process efficiencies like virtual meetings. As such, overall the cost for the 2020 review is expected to be approximately $550,000.

Spokesperson Quotes
“As Canadians and international trading partners increase demand for organic products, the Canada Organic Trade Association welcomes a strong partnership with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.  We take our responsibility for providing a growing portion of food seriously and see the need for taking an increasingly active role within agriculture in Canada,” says Dag Falck, President of the Board, Canada Organic Trade Association.

“The domestic and International trade relations that the organic industry has with committed export market partners needs stability and a permanent solution for the cost of updating the organic standards to ensure the industry continues to prosper.  The commitment announced today is a step in the right direction,” says Tia Loftsgard, executive director, Canada Organic Trade Association. 

About the Canada Organic Trade Association
The Canada Organic Trade Association is the membership-based association for the organic industry in Canada: representing growers, processors, certifiers, provincial farmers' associations, importers, exporters, retailers and others throughout the organic value chain. COTA's mission is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public and the economy. COTA brings together the diversity of Canada's organic sector: from farmer and processor to retail, including food products, fibre and textiles, personal care, and emerging sectors such as organic aquaculture. www.ota.com/canada-ota

Media contact: Heather Badenoch, Village PR, 613-859-8232, heather@villagepr.ca