Imagine you’re walking through the produce section of your local grocery store. You pick up an apple that has an organic label on it. What does that label really mean? How has that apple been grown, harvested, and shipped? If you aren’t sure, you’re not alone.
According to the research, 74% of Albertans purchase organic products on a weekly basis. That’s the highest rate in all of Canada! Still, many of us don’t know exactly what it means when we’re buying products with an organic label. From produce and dairy, to meat and body care products, organics can be confusing to navigate.
You’ve probably come across an organic label at some point and wondered:
- How are organic crops and livestock farmed?
- What are the regulations and how are organic products monitored?
- Are organic animals given hormones?
- What do they mean by synthetic pesticides and herbicides?
These are great questions. There’s plenty of research and data to answer them in detail (plus a great new video on the Organic Alberta website to check out) but the best place to start is with the legislation.
In Canada, there is federal legislation in place that outlines how organics have to be produced. Organic producers follow very strict rules to be allowed to use organic labels on their products.
In an exciting new update, Alberta has also introduced its own legislation. The provincial laws governing organics in Alberta are there to reinforce the strict guidelines and regulations set out by the federal government. All the processes and rules are easily spelled out for everyone, which is creating more trust than ever between shoppers and producers.
Let’s take a closer look at the specific laws surrounding organic labels.
In Canada, the federal government wants to make sure the organic food we buy is truly organic. That means producers have to follow a strict set of rules in order to label their products as organic. In 2009, the Canadian Federal Government created the Canadian Organic Product Regulations to regulate the standards for organic products in Canada. Organic producers now have to have annual third-party inspections and certifications for their products and production processes.
The creation of the federal legislation was exciting for everyone buying organics, because it meant that the word “organic” was backed up by a set of real standards that are enforced nation-wide. With the rise of many buzzwords like “natural” and “sustainably produced” on products that aren’t regulated, it’s hard to know whether what we’re buying really matches the description on the label.
Thanks to the Canadian Organic Product Regulations, you can rest easy knowing that the organically labelled products you’ve bought have been inspected and regulated. You can always trust the label because it’s the law!
Unfortunately for local shoppers, there were some gaps in the federal legislation. It only applies to organic products that:
- Are used in import, export, or inter-provincial trade
- Have the federal Canada Organic Logo
Did you catch the problem? This legislation doesn’t account for organic products grown and sold within a province or territory. This creates a major gap for people who buy local. That’s why Canadian provinces (including Alberta) are stepping up with their own provincial legislation to make sure all producers are following the guidelines.
Introducing Alberta’s New Provincial Legislation!
It’s taken a lot of lobbying, education, and coordination to get Alberta’s organic legislation in place, but it’s finally arrived!
As of April 1st, 2019, the Supporting Alberta’s Local Food Sector Act (SALFSA) is in full effect.
What does this mean for people in Alberta? Essentially, it means that we’re going to be enforcing and applying the federal legislation to producers at the provincial level. People like you and I will be able to know exactly how our local organic products are grown or raised, harvested, packaged, marketed, and sold. That will go a long way in helping us make decisions about what we want to buy, plus some extra peace of mind.
Does Anything Change for Producers?
With SALFSA now in place, every product sold or labeled as organic in Alberta must be certified through a third-party certification body to the federal organic regulations.
Does it change how your organics are being produced? Are the products going to change?
The answer is no.
SALFSA simply reinforces the current federal legislation and introduces new practices for monitoring and certification for Alberta organic producers. That means you get the same great organic products with the added benefit of knowing they’ve been grown and created under regulated organic processes.
If you’d like to learn more about the specific regulations for organic producers, check out Alberta’s Organic Products Regulations. We’ll also be sharing stories directly from your local farmers and producers in the upcoming months, so stay tuned and sign up for updates!
Local Organic Legislation in Canada
We certainly aren’t the first province to realize there was a gap and introduce legislation for organic producers on a provincial-level. British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Quebec have all created similar legislation to the new Alberta regulations. Like Alberta, they provide provincial-level organic certification. Ontario is also working on creating organic legislation.
Let’s take a quick look at how other provinces are certifying their organics:
As of September 2018, products carrying the organic label in British Columbia have to be certified provincially. This means producers in B.C. need to be certified by either the British Columbia Certified Organic Program (BCCOP) or the Canadian Organic Regime (COR).
Manitoba has been regulating their organics since 2013. Their legislation is called the Organic Agricultural Products Act and reinforces the national organic standards within the province.
Nova Scotia enacted their legislation in 2015. Known as the Organic Grade Regulations, it enforces Canadian Organic Standards within the province, similar to Alberta’s new legislation.
The Natural Products Act was created in 2014 in New Brunswick to regulate their local organic products. It also enforces the Canadian Organic Standards on a provincial level.
Quebec was the very first province to introduce provincial organic legislation. Quebec created their legislation under the Act Respecting Reserved Designations and Value-Added Claims in 2006. They even have their own certified organic brand, Bio Quebec, to help identify their provincially certified organic products.
Trust the Label When You Shop
It’s always nice to know exactly what goes into the products you’re buying. You’ve probably checked the labels, tags, or ingredients lists on your household products, food, and clothing before. Still, food and product labeling can be confusing. Is it just clever marketing? Or does that label on your apple, or beef, or milk actually mean something?
In Alberta, the organic label is much more than just marketing: it’s the law. Those laws are backed up with strong practices that every organic producer in Alberta (and across Canada) has to follow.
With SALFSA now in place, you have even more reason to trust the label on all your organic products,so you can shop with confidence!
What You Can Expect from Organic Alberta
Over the next few months, Organic Alberta will be sharing real stories from local producers, markets, and shoppers. We’ll answer all the questions you have about pesticides, herbicide, GMO regulation, meat raised without hormones, and animal welfare practices that are covered by the Canadian and Albertan organic legislation.
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