The Canadian government Friday proposed a national regulatory system for certified organic food products designated by a "Canada Organic" label.
The proposed rule, published in the Sept. 2 issue of the Canada Gazette, the official newspaper of the Canadian government, outlines a mandatory system where the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the counterpart to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), would regulate the use of the "Canada Organic" label and would provide oversight, administration and enforcement of federal organic regulations.
Mandatory regulation with third party certification would result in an increase of Cdn$1.3 billion ($1.2 billion) (in 2005 dollars) when compared to keeping things as they are, which would result in a cumulative loss of Cdn$490.2 million ($443.7 million), the government said.
Canada has never had a legal framework for administering its organic food industry, although a standard has existed for seven years. Currently, certifying organic food producers has been a voluntary action, except in the province of Québec, which requires certification to the Québec organic standards by certifying bodies accredited by the Conseil des appellations agroalimentaries du Québec (CAAQ).
The federal government said it believes the new organic regime would improve international market access, provide protection to consumers against deceptive and misleading labeling practices and further develop the domestic market.
Canada’s organic industry has been growing at a rate of up to 20 percent annually for the past decade with approximately 3,670 certified organic farms in 2004 (latest figures available) producing products with a retail value estimated at Cdn$986 million ($893 million).
"This industry represents a growing sector of the global food industry and is largely consumer driven," the notice in the Canada Gazette read. "The most significant international markets for Canadian organic products are the European Union and the United States."
The European Union threatened to cut off organic food imports from Canada by the end of the year if it did not adopt a national standard. The EU requires all organic food exporting countries be on an approved third-country equivalency list by Dec.31.
The CAN/CGSB-32.310, Organic Production Systems — General Principles and Management Standards developed by the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) would form the basis of the new organic standards regime.