Manitoba gets a provincial organic law: is Ontario next?

Guelph, ON- The use of the term “organic” in Canada just got a little clearer, and the Organic Council of Ontario hopes the that Manitoba’s new law leads to similar legislation in Ontario.

On May 4, 2013, Manitoba proclaimed the Organic Agricultural Products Act (OAPA), making Manitoba the first province to pass a provincial organic law since the federal Organic Products Regulations (OPR) were passed in June 2009.

Manitoba is now the third province with a provincial law that defines and controls the use of the word “organic” within the provincial context (both British Columbia and Quebec have laws that predate the OPR) and it is the first province to pass a law that “mirrors” the federal OPR. Manitoba has adopted the federal definition of “organic”, references the same standards (CAN/CGSB-32.310 and CAN/CGSB-32.311) and will rely on the same system of federally-accredited Certification Bodies to ensure that organic operators comply with organic standards. As in the federal system, Manitoba’s approach to enforcement will be complaint-based.

The OAPA and its regulations will come into force on July 1, 2013 and will apply to all food products grown or processed and sold in Manitoba that make an organic claim. The OAPA mirrors the federal OPR and provides additional oversight over retailers that sell organic food. The new law will require all farmers and food processors that make organic food claims to be inspected annually by a federally accredited Certification Body. Certified operators in Manitoba will be able to use the federal organic logo on food products containing more than 95% organic ingredients.

The law does not require businesses that sell organic food to be certified unless they perform additional processing in-store or in their distribution centres, but they must maintain the integrity of organic food products by developing and following standard operating procedures to segregate organic and conventional food products and maintain appropriate records to demonstrate that organic integrity is preserved throughout their chain of custody.

The OAPA and its regulations will close the provincial gap in the national network of laws governing use of the word “organic” in Manitoba and will provide assurance to Manitoba consumers that all food promoted as “organic” is subject to the same regulatory requirements no matter where it is produced.

“The case for such legislation in Ontario is simple, producers and consumers alike deserve clarity in the marketplace,” said Matt LeBeau, Chair of the Organic Council of Ontario and a broker in the organic food industry. “We cannot grow Ontario organics to its full potential without similar legislation in place”.

The Organic Council of Ontario has promoted such legislation as a needed tool in protecting the integrity of the organic brand. Built over a 30 year history of shared values and a commitment to transparency and traceability, the organic claim is a values contract between producer and consumer. Certification is the backbone of that trust relationship.  “With the organic sector in Ontario a billion dollar industry and a growth rate of 10-15%, OCO believes the province has the duty to ensure the same marketplace protections Quebec and Manitoba farmers enjoy for Ontario’s farmers,” added Mr. LeBeau.

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