I am a certified organic farmer and sell some of my produce at the local farmer's market. There is another local farmer at the market selling his goods in 'certified organic' packaging. He is not certified and although we have spoken to him about using the label he continues to do it. I am wondering what resources do we have to ensure that people aren't abusing the label so that being 'certified' is worth all the time and money?
We talked to the Canadian Food Inspection agency last year who are supposedly in charge of looking after this type of labeling infringement. We had similar 'organic' producers in our region as well.
What we are told is that we should collect photographic evidence of the labeling and/or advertising and provide as much information to them (the CFIA) as possible and then they will look into it and potentially take action.
In other words you do the police work and they will do the enforcement.
Thanks for the reply. Unfortunately doing the 'policing' is not a task I'm up to as this is a very small community, the person in question is my neighbor and I work with him on the Farmer's Institute board. It just makes me question my own stubborn motivation to continue certifying despite my belief in the process.
I totally agree with you, we had the same problem, being in a small market you don't want to be pointing fingers and creating hard feelings.
But you are right, why have the distinction of organic if there is no enforcement by authorities?
The person I talked to in CFIA was in Quebec and I don't think he realized there are very few CFIA people in this part of the world to do this kind of enforcement...
You are doing the right thing (coming from someone equally stubborn). Just keep at it and over time people will be better educated and start asking the questions that everyone should be asking already.
There is a distinction between "organic" and "certified organic" claims. Within BC (and I think all provinces except Quebec, which has a mandatory organic rule) it is perfectly legal to say that your produce is organic, as long as it is grown in accordance with the Canadian organic standard. For produce that is shipped or sold outside a province, the federal rules apply, and only certified organic claims are allowed. To be certified implies and requires certification by an outside, arms length agency with the proper jurisdiction and expertise. You can no certify yourself, and you can't have your friend or neighbour certify that you are organic.
If Lynda's neighbour claimed to be "organic" instead of "certified organic" (as long as he did grow according to the Canadian Organic Standard) I think there would be much less of a problem, and much more truth and clarity.
I think you are entering the slippery slope that inspired the certification movement in the first place. Third party inspection is the only way consumers can know that the organic claims are indeed true.
After the Canadian Organic Regulations (COR), products that are grown and sold in the same province can be labeled as organic without being certified because the COR only apply to products sold on interprovincial and international markets.
But if a product is labeled as "certfied organic", there should be an organic certificate delivered by an accredited certifying body. So you are entitled to ask for this certificate.
If there is no certificate, the claim is not legal; a complaint can be lodged at the Canada Competition Bureau that manages the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act.
This is how it is managed at the national level. I know that in BC, the phrase BC Certified Organic is protected; but I am not sure that this protection could be extended to "certified organic".
This is an important and interesting debate to have. For over a decade my mother participated in the certification process in B.C. It was quite a lot of work, particularly a huge amount of paperwork. Our sales simply never justified it and we finally stopped. We still grow using all the same techniques and inputs. I haven't gone back on the program as I'm running the farm & house by myself and there's no time to do the required paperwork. In my respectful opinion, farmers should be allowed to use the phrase "organic" if they are growing organically. "Certified organic" should be reserved for those who have agreed to subject themselves to the certification/oversight process. The consumer has to be educated to the difference and then make choices -- trust the farmer's claim, trust the certifying body, etc. I believe it is vital to get people to think about food and to allow them to be informed so they can choose -- that means complete labelling (including GMO where it is present). One final thought (which I never speak of to the general public as I don't want to risk jeapordizing the "certified organic" label) an unscrupulous farmer/gardener could easily get certified and NOT be growing organically; there just aren't enough inspectors to prevent it. So, it all comes down to ethics and trust in the end. My plea to all of you is to remember that some of us truly don't have the time to be certified, but need to tell consumers that we are growing in a natural, healthy, organic way! Thank you.
Perhaps we should standardize our system to mimic the US naming convention. I believe there that you can only use the term 'Organic' if you are essentially what we call 'certified organic' in BC. This makes it really clear for the consumer what they are buying and also easier to enforce the rules.
Not sure if I agree with Lyn on the paperwork issue though. The paperwork required for organic certification is (in my opinion) not much more than would be required to run any successful business that properly tracks inputs, outputs and income and expenses.
In our case the cost to maintain organic certification is insignificant in comparison to our costs related to feeding our animals certified organic feed and providing sufficient space and housing. I can't see it making much sense (for livestock producers anyway) to walk away from certification and then continue feeding certified feeds and meeting the organic husbandry regulations. Perhaps the operational economics are different for vegetable/fruit farmers?
With respect to unscrupulous individuals obtaining certification and then using farming practices which are not in keeping with organic regulations I guess it would be possible. I think it is far more likely that this type of farmer would just not seek certification but use wording in their advertisements that suggest they are essentially organic anyway.
The bottom line is that third party oversight is a good thing, even if it is limited to one visit per year. Many certification schemes that consumers demand (ISO, FSC, etc) also rely solely on annual reviews.
I recognize that there are likely farmers who are not certified and who might meet or exceed COR, but without third party oversight you are just taking them at their word as a consumer.