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Canada's organic certification comes under attack

Annual organic agricultural sales in Canada exceed $2.6-billion, by recent estimates, with supermarket chains joining alternative stores in stocking an ever-widening array of organic-labelled products.

As the popularity of organic food explodes in Canada, it has drawn new scrutiny that raises questions over its authenticity, meaning and value.

It is the authenticity of organic food labelling that forms the core of an excoriating report this month from the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

The report argues that Canada's organic certification process is open to fraud and abuse, saying that consumers pay a hefty price for organic foods, whilst the designation requires no evidence.

The Canada Food Inspection Agency did internal spot tests last year and found that nearly 24% of the 178 organic apples they tested contained pesticide residue.

In response to the organic industry’s growth, Canada enacted a labelling requirement: Since 2009, products making an organic claim must be certified by an agency accredited by the Canada Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

Not included in that process, however, is mandatory laboratory testing of products that could ensure organic-labelled food is actually farmed without pesticides, leaving the organics industry in the hands of the honour system.

The organics industry rejects the notion and defends the integrity of its members and the system.

“Organic farmers and processors undergo scrutiny with audits and inspections against Canada’s organic standards. The organic standards in Canada are very robust,” said Stephanie Wells, Senior Regulatory Affairs Advisor with the Canada Organic Trade Association.

The CFIA said organic products are subject to its regular chemical residue monitoring program, along with all other food products. The federal agency, itself, does not provide certification, but rather accredits private businesses to do it.

Source: news.nationalpost.com

Publication date: 11/26/2012


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