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Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network

Changes to the Organic Standard

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As of June 2011, the Canadian Organic Standard and Permitted Substances List have been updated. This is the third revision since the original publication date. You may be wondering “Why so many changes?” Some of the amendments are corrections or clarifications, and others are more substantive – to allow the standard to adapt to new information, changes in the sector (such as availability of ingredients or materials) or research findings.

Some highlights of the June 2011 revision:

Parallel Production (5.1.2): The prohibition on all parallel crop production that was put in place in 2008 has now been lifted for some forms of production. These are:

  • Perennial crops (already planted)
  • Agricultural research facilities
  • Seed production
  • Vegetative propagating materials and transplants

These changes were advocated by many growers in our region and in other areas of Canada. This revision brings us in line with standards in the EU, but is more restrictive than in the US where all forms of parallel production are allowed. Split production (where you can produce different crops conventionally and organically on the same farm) has always been permitted.

If you are producing crops in parallel production, there are going to be some tighter requirements. Producers must have clear separation between organic and non-organic products, and maintain accurate records at all stages of production and sale. Certification bodies will need an inspection of both organic and conventional crops before harvest and a production audit after harvest, to ensure there is no chance for cross contamination.

This amendment proved to be controversial; while most farmer organizations were in favour of the change, a blog hosted by the Organic Federation of Canada had many negative comments from concerned consumers (and some farmers too). As always, organic farms are required to have a plan of eventual transition of their farm to 100% organic.

Initial Application Dates: For new crop producers, the first certification application must be filed 15 months in advance of the date you plan to market your product for the following products:

  • Field crops (5.1.1)
  • Maple (7.2.8)
  • Greenhouse in-ground production (7.5.1)

This brings the standard in line with the Organic Product Regulations. So, if your harvest begins in early July, then you would need to have your application in by March 31 of the previous year. On the other hand, if you are a maple syrup producer and you plan to begin sales in March 2012, you should have submitted your application by the beginning of December 2010. Note that this only applies to new applicants, not existing producers (although it’s always good to get your application in on time and avoid those late fees!).

A few more notable changes for crops are that the requirements for maple syrup production will now apply to birch syrup (7.2), and the harvest of wild crops must occur 1 km from potential sources of contamination like dumps or golf courses (7.6.4).

Bedding for livestock can now be non-organic if organic is not available (6.8.1.h). Similar to the requirements for organic seed, you need to conduct a search and contact known organic producers. If you do use non-organic bedding, it cannot be produced from genetic engineering, and like mulch, must be uncontaminated for 60 days prior to harvest. This would allow the use of fertilizers but not post-emergent herbicides or desiccants (used to dry down some crops prior to harvest).

Livestock: there were many changes made to these sections to better reflect current good management practices and animal welfare considerations.

For Ruminants fed silage, section 6.4.3c states that at least 15% of total dry matter in the ration must be from long fiber forage (>10 cm stem length). This replaces a previous requirement that asked producers to use dry hay, which was argued to be impractical in humid climates or during especially rainy seasons.

Poultry (6.8.11) – this section was reworked to add a number of new clauses, including:

  • Birds can be confined if there is an emergency situation threatening bird health (keep records to document why) (11.1c) or during onset of lay (11.1e).
  • Ducks & geese need to have access to a water area, which should be designed to minimize contact with wild waterfowl (11.2)
  • Housing must provide enough drinkers and feeders, and access to enough nests according to best management practices (11.3). What are best management practices? Check the National Codes from the National Farm Animal Council
  • Access to perch area of 18 cm/hen, but this can include nest rails or raised flooring areas (11.4)
  • Coops with slatted floors should have a minimum of 30% solid floor area (11.6)
  • Natural light must be provided; if it is supplemented with artificial then normally the total duration of light should not be more than 16 hours/day (11.8.)

For Pigs/Wild Boars (6.8.13), the following changes apply:

  • Limit of 2.5 sows/ha for farrow-to-finish operators; the farms must have access to sufficient land to spread manure (13.1)
  • Their housing must allow access to the outdoors (13.2) and an area for rooting (13.7)
  • Pigs may be restrained to protect piglets or for sows in heat; this is for a maximum of five days (13.3)
  • Piglets should not be weaned <4 weeks of age (earlier is permitted only if animal welfare is compromised) (13.4)
  • Nose rings are not allowed (13.8)

Cleaners, disinfectants and sanitizers not on the Permitted Substances List may now be used only if permitted products are demonstrated to be ineffective (8.3.8). There are stricter requirements if non-PSL products are to be used. Testing must be done to demonstrate that the cleaner/sanitizer/disinfectant can be effectively removed from all organic food-contact surfaces; this removal will need to be documented after each cleaning to ensure no contamination of organic food. The effluent from cleaning will need to be neutralized before disposal.

Hope that all makes sense! Please get in touch if you have any questions about these changes or any aspect of transition to organic farming – we can help you find the answers you need.

Written by Roxanne Beavers, ACORN Extension Specialist. Have an organic question on certification or transitioning? Email Roxanne (Roxanne @ acornorganic [dot] org)

Author: acornorganic

Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network. Vision ACORN aims to enhance the viability and growth of the Atlantic Canadian organic agricultural community through a unified regional network. Mission Statement ACORN is a non-profit organization that promotes organic agriculture by: Facilitating information exchange between and amongst organizations and individuals Coordinating non-formal education for producers through to consumers Networking with all interested parties both regionally and nationally Structure ACORN is a membership-based non-profit incorporated cooperative with an eleven member Board of Directors and an Executive Director.

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