When you see a ‘certified organic’ sign at the market it means the grower has been recognized by a certification body and follows the Canadian Organic Standard.
The British Columbia Certified Organic Program is a voluntary agri-food quality program sanctioned by the Government of British Columbia through the Organic Certification Regulation under the Food and Agricultural Products Classification Act.
The organic certification system was developed in the early 1990s in BC to ensure that organic farmers are all using the same set of practicesto build soil, support natural ecosystems, and practice humane livestock care. It provides a guarantee that farmers are doing what they say they are, and traceability from field to fork. The organic practices standard is publicly available so anyone can review it and find out what exactly is happening on each farm.
Organic farmers work to nurture living, healthy soil, biological diversity, ecological harmony using sustainable practices and renewable resources including healthy animals and natural livestock socialization. There’s a lot more we do than simply not allowing GE (genetically engineered) crops or spraying toxins. Organic farming promotes the sustainable health and productivity of the ecosystem – soil, plants, animals and people. Organic foods are farmed in an environmentally sustainable and socially responsible way, focusing on soil regeneration, water conservation and animal welfare. Annual inspections and review of on-farm activities guarantee that farmers are doing what they claim.
Organic farmers and food processors in Canada must meet a set of operating standards overseen at the federal level by the CFIA and written by industry. There are two types of organic certification in BC, both of which follow the same set of organic standards: regional and federal certification. The primary difference between the two is how they review each farmers’ plan and activities. Regional certification bodies (CBs) peer-review each farm, while federal CBs hire panels of industry professionals. Both are overseen by the COABC to ensure that they are rigorous and fair, so that customers can be assured that both systems work.
The Certified Organic Associations of British Columbia (COABC) is an umbrella association representing organic certifying agencies in the province. COABC is empowered by the British Columbia Organic Agricultural Products Regulation under the British Columbia Food Choice and Disclosure Act to implement an organic certification accreditation province-wide. COABC was incorporated under the Society’s Act in March of 1993. It is also mandated by the federal government to accredit certification bodies under the national organic standard.
The certification accreditation program is an industry and government partnership program which is industry – driven and industry – regulated, with government providing oversight authority.
When you see a farm or food processor in BC with an organic sign, you know they are certified, verified, and transparent about their practices.