What are the best ecological practices in Canadian organic agriculture?
Since 2009, all foods produced and sold in Canada that carry the Canada logo have been certified to the Canadian Organic Standards.
From oats to onions, and maple syrup to milk, the Canadian Organic Standards (COS) cover a great range of food products, including processed foods, vegetables, dairy products, eggs, sprouts, meats and fruit. For all these types of production, the COS promote and describe agricultural practices that minimize the impact of agriculture on our environment. The COS promote management practices that enrich soil fertility and promote animal welfare.
Referenced by the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations, the COS must be updated and validated every years.
The public review has now started! Farmers, processors, consumers and others are invited to comment on the proposed amendments to the Standard.
The standards are presented in two versions: one version contains the text of the current 2015 Standard with tracked changes; suggested deletions are crossed out and additions are underlined. This will allow you to see exactly what the proposed changes are.
The other “clean” version displays the standard as if all the proposed changes have been accepted. The links are:
CAN/CGSB-32.310 Organic Production Systems: General Principles and Management Standards –
CAN/CGSB-32.311 Organic Production Systems: Permitted Substances Lists (PSL)
You have to present your comments on the Canadian General Standards Board form and send the form at this email address Mark.Schuessler@tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca
Changes inserted in the standards themselves will not be accepted.
Please be clear and concise and submit your comment by September 30, 2019.
When you read the draft with the tracked changes, you may be surprised at the large number of proposed changes. However, many of them are simply editorial in nature, that is, they alter the text to clarify its wording. For example, the terms “non-synthetic” and “synthetic”have often been replaced by terms that more accurately describe the substance.
The proposed changes also reflect the evolution of technology. For example, “treated seeds” used to mean fungicide-coated seeds. Now, seeds can be coated with clay and other acceptable substances. The Technical Committee therefore clarified the use of terms related to treatment, priming and coating of seeds.
The definition of genetic engineering must also be rewritten as genetic engineering has evolved. The standards must clearly state that that genetic modifications and certain other new technologies, such as gene editing, are not allowed.
The Greenhouse Task Force has proposed significant changes. The text has been reorganized to make it easier to understand and the Greenhouse Crop Production section has been renamed “Protected Crop Structures and Containers “.
The section applies only to a particular type of production. For example, if you have a greenhouse with crops grown in the ground without supplemental heating or lighting, this section does not apply. You can just follow the general guidelines on crop production. The issue of artificial lighting in greenhouses has been the subject of much debate; the proposed text only allows it for crops harvested within 60 days.
The Working Group on Livestock has had many heated debates on poultry farming conditions. The revised standard proposes, among other changes, to provide shade on outdoor runs, clarifies requirements for access to the outside and perches, and introduces the concept of “winter gardens“.
With hogs, more details were added to the requirement of outdoor access. Clarifications have made to the restrictions on vaccines, amino acids and parasiticides. The needs for indoor (barn) space for goats, sheep and cattle were examined. The clause is clarified, and, in many cases, the animals now require more space.
Another controversial issue that the Crop Working Group confronted was parallel production, i.e. the “simultaneous production or preparation of organic and non-organic crops that are visually indistinguishable when crops, livestock or products are placed side by side”. The proposed compromise is to allow parallel production for “annual crops harvested during the last 24 months of the transitional period, when fields are added to existing farms”.
The working group also introduced a new requirement: farmers must take action “to promote and protect ecosystem health”.
The Preparation and the Permitted Substances Lists for Crop Production Working Groups have made a number of changes to address new products and to make it easier to identify what products are permitted. The proposed merger of Tables 4.2 and 4.3 marks a turning point in the presentation of permitted substances in crop production. Finally, the principle of social equity has been added to the text of the standard.