Province cracks down on organic certifications

The B.C. government will soon require anyone producing and selling organic products within the province to require certification.

  • Sep. 30, 2015 8:00 p.m.

— Pamela Roth

After consulting with stakeholders earlier this year, the B.C. government will soon require anyone producing and selling organic products within the province to require certification.

Beginning in 2018, producers, processors and handlers of organic food and beverage products including farm gate sales, farmers markets and retail stores, will require provincial or national documentation verifying their products have accredited organic certification.

The move ensures consumers that products stating they are organic are in fact what they say they are. The demand for organic products is also growing rapidly in B.C., forcing the government to adjust its requirements for businesses producing and processing food products as organic.

Former James Bay residents, Joseph Westra and Sadie Redden moved to Cobble Hill last September to run their own organic farm, primarily producing mixed vegetables and some fruit.

The couple sells their produce at the Esquimalt Farmers Market and applauds the government’s move to stamp out bogus organic claims being made by farmers who don’t have third-party certification.

At the market this year, Westra learned one farmer labelled as organic was actually only in transition, and it’s not the first time Westra has come across cases like this.

“I’m fairly certain that they were misleading their product. It’s a bummer for us because it’s an extra expense and we’re jumping through all the hoops to make sure that our product is organic,” said Westra. “A lot of people who say we grow organically throw the organic label on their food and say they read the requirements once and they mostly follow it, so they tell people they are organic. But it’s not the same thing.”

In order to be a certified organic farmer, there are a number of protocols to follow.

According to Westra, seeds, fertilizers, compost and building material such as fence posts have certain requirements. Farmers also have to document everything and must dedicate a quarter of their field to relax and regenerate every year.

Westra doesn’t believe the public is up to date on what’s actually involved in organic agriculture, and believes they would be shocked to learn what’s required to grow organically.

“It’s pretty comprehensive,” he said. “Ultimately, I don’t really think the consumer cares that much if it’s certified or not. While we were selling at the market, nobody asked to see our certification papers. They just ask if it’s organic and that’s the story I’ve heard from others as well.”

Dr. John Volpe, a professor of marine ecology and food systems at the University of Victoria, questions the extent of how products under organic labels differ from conventional products, noting many industry standards already exceed organic standards.

The organic label conjures in consumer’s minds a level of production purity that doesn’t exist, he explained. The biggest problem is with who’s doing the certification.

“The standard setters are not the ones that are the certifiers. There’s no quality control on that end,” said Volpe, who hasn’t seen any proof that organic is necessarily better for your health, but noted certain products might be loser in terms of allergens or impurities for particular individuals.

“Organic is really about a production system that has a lighter footprint on the planet as opposed to health benefits to the consumer. Sometimes they go hand-in-hand, but not always.”

Earlier this year, the ministry of agriculture began consulting with the organic sector about developing an approach to strengthen the awareness and reputation of B.C.’s organic foods locally and across Canada. Nearly 80 per cent of certified organic growers supported the move to require certification.

The government will work with the Certified Organic Associations of B.C. (COABC) to provide assistance to help interested farmers and growers transition to organic certification. The government also has plans to develop an enforcement program that will be implemented in 2018.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Seattle Mariners field coordinator Carson Vitale before a game at T-Mobile Park during the 2020 season. Vitale, who grew up in Victoria, has pledged to run 10 miles a day for 2021 and to donate 50 cents per mile to the United Way of King County. (Ben Van Houten/Seattle Mariners)
Mariners coach running 10 miles a day for United Way

Saanich-raised Carson Vitale, Seattle Mariners field coordinator, plans to run 3,650 miles in 2021

Gordon English, construction manager of the Habitat for Humanity project in North Saanich, shows off the current interior of a townhouse part of the affordable housing project. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Families set to move in to affordable housing project in North Saanich by spring

Pending completion of Habitat for Humanity project comes against backdrop of new housing report

A rainbow graces the departure of CCGS John Cabot as it leaves Victoria Jan. 7. (Canadian Coast Guard/Facebook)
Follow a coast guard ship’s trip from Victoria to Halifax, through Panama Canal

Canadian Coast Guard Ship John Cabot left for St. Johns on Jan. 7

Johnathan Lee Robichaud pleaded guilty to eight charges including sex-related offences against children and accessing, possessing and making or publishing child pornography. (Courtesy of Saanich Police)
Sentencing date moved for Saanich nanny guilty of child porn charges

Johnathon Lee Robichaud pleaded guilty to eight sex offences against children

(Google Maps)
Sophisticated glass-removal crime returns to downtown Victoria

Several businesses on Fort Street targeted overnight, say police

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Black Press media file
Port McNeill driver tells police he thought the pandemic meant no breathalyzers

Suspect facing criminal charges after breathalyzer readings in excess of 3.5 times the legal limit

Most Read