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Canadian Organic Standards

The Canadian Organic Standards define the ecological practices to be followed by organic operators.

Organic production is a holistic system designed to optimize the productivity and fitness of diverse communities within the agro-ecosystem, including soil organisms, plants, livestock and people. The principal goal of organic production is to develop operations that are sustainable and harmonious with the environment (source: Can/CGSB-32.310-2020).

The Canadian Organic Standards include two documents:

Organic production systems – General principles and management standards

Organic production systems – Permitted Substances Lists

Homepage Canadian Organic Standards Image - Organic Federation of Canada

The scope is the Canadian Organic Standards is broad: it includes field crops, honey, maple sugar, sprouts, horticulture, greenhouse crops, livestock (dairy, poultry, pig, sheep and goats), processed food.

It takes into account differences between Canada’s agricultural regions that require varying production practices.

Moreover, they are comparable to the organic standards of the trading countries importing Canadian organic products, so to allow the creation of organic equivalency agreements that facilitate international organic trade and ensure that products labelled as organic imported in Canada are complying with standards equivalent with the Canadian Organic Standards.

To remain applicable and accurate, they are revised every five years; the review is managed by the Organic Federation of Canada.

Did You Know?

Organic Federation of Canada OFC Logo Symbol

Publication of the 2020 Canadian Organic Standards

In December 2020, the 2020 version of the Canadian Organic Standards were published.

The revised Canadian Organic Standards contain changes that operators must apply in their production system.

The OFC has prepared a series of documents that compare the 2015 and 2020 versions of the standard by juxtaposing the two standards and highlighting the changes that operators need to consider.

CAN/CGSB-32.310 - Organic Principles and management standards
CAN/CGSB-32.311 - Permitted substances lists

Review of the Canadian Organic Standards - Highlights and articles

The revision of the Canadian Organic Standard (COS), which began in September 2018, was completed in December 2020, when the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) published the 2020 version of the COS.

The revisions to the standard have been the subject of much debate. Practices related to animal welfare, promotion of biodiversity, greenhouse production and other types of production have been assessed and compared to the organic standards of our trading partners.
Consensus was sometimes difficult to reach, but, in the end, the COS 2020 includes improved practices and is intended to meet consumer expectations of COS-certified organic products. Here are some of the revised clauses of the 2020 COS.

A compromise about feed supplements and vaccines

Exceptions made to the 2020 version of the Canadian Organic Standards to allow some amino acids, phytase,vaccines and vitamins to contain residues from GE products.

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Protecting Biodiversity: enhancing ecosystem health

Biodiversity is essential. The 2020 Standard includes a new clause requiring organic farmers to take concrete steps to support the diversity of life forms on their farms.

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Relaxation of the standard for farms already certified

The Technical Committee introduces exception in the 2020 Standards to allow parallel production during transition of fields added to existing operations.

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A final decision to prohibit 100% artificial lighting

The Organic Agriculture Technical Committee made the final decision that only certain types of certified organic plants could be grown under 100% artificial lighting.

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Recycling Phosphorous from livestock urine

The addition of struvite (magnesium ammonium phosphate) to the Permitted Substances Lists (PSL) for use as a soil amendment in the 2020 Canadian Organic Standards.

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Overhead cover for shade and protection

Providing overhead covering and enriched verandas for poultry is necessary in order to maintain living conditions that accommodate their health and natural behaviour.

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Pandemic, drought, and the Canadian Organic Standards

When developing the Canadian Organic Standard (COS), there is both a need for compassion for the farmers facing catastrophe, and a need to maintain organic integrity.

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Helping honeybees survive Canadian winters the organic way

Surviving Canadian winters can be a challenge for honeybees: allowing farmers to winter feed their bees to endure our cold and increasingly changing climate.

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Sponsors of the 2020 review of the Canadian Organic Standards

The 2020 review of the Canadian Organic Standards was funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and by following generous industry sponsors.

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