Plans underway to grow B.C. organic sector

The Ministry of Agriculture is consulting with the organic sector about developing B.C.'s organic foods industry further.

  • Jan. 26, 2015 10:00 a.m.

The Ministry of Agriculture is consulting with the organic sector about developing a three pillar approach to strengthen the awareness and reputation of B.C.’s organic foods, locally, across Canada, and around the world.

The consultations involve regulating the use of the term “organic”, developing transitional strategies that support farmers to become certified, creating business strategy and market development programs, and creating a brand to market B.C. organic foods.

The proposed change will require all products marketed as “organic” in B.C. to be certified under either a provincial or national certification program. Operators producing and selling their organic products strictly within B.C. will require provincial certification. B.C. companies with customers in other provinces or countries will require certification by a federally accredited certification body, just as they do today.

The provincial certification program follows the same standard as the national program, but with streamlined record keeping and documentation practices. Provincial certification offers growers access to the local organic market with less paperwork, while still ensuring B.C. consumers have certainty when purchasing organic foods.

Under the model being discussed:

* Following the development of an effective and efficient administration and enforcement system and a suitable period of transition, producers and processors that are not certified under either the provincial or federal certification program would not be able to use the term “organic” todescribe or market their products.

* Producers, processors and handlers of organic products including farm gate sales, farmers’ markets and retail stores, would be required to have documentation verifying their accredited certification.

* Reports by citizens concerned that an uncertified product produced and sold exclusively within B.C. was being marketed as organic would be investigated by the B.C. government.

In addition to conversations with Certified Organic Associations of BC (COABC) and individual farmers, the ministry will be distributing an e-survey seeking input from organic farmers about the proposed model. The responses will be compiled and used to determine how the model being developed should proceed.

Requiring organic certification would assure consumers the products they purchase are grown using recognized organic practices, and promote the highest standards of organic production in B.C. Currently, companies with organic products produced, handled, and sold exclusively within B.C., may choose to participate in the BC Certified Organic Program, which is administered by the Certified Organic Association of BC.

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