GREENFIELD, Mass. (Oct. 29, 2002)—Although the burgeoning market for organic products offers good business opportunities, Canada’s organic exporters face some challenges with the implementation of the United States Department of Agriculture’s new organic regulations. Because Canada exports most of its organic products to the United States, Canada’s organic sector, which has enjoyed a 15 to 20 percent annual growth rate over the past decade, could take a heavy blow if Canada’s organic standard is not acceptable to USDA.
The U.S. national organic standards came into full implementation Oct. 21. Under the new regulations, all organic products sold in the United States must meet or exceed U.S. standards. U.S. standards require that products labeled as “organic” be inspected and verified by a certification agency approved by the USDA. The regulations also outline stringent labeling requirements based on the product’s percent organic content. Anyone falsely claiming a product is organic without meeting the U.S. organic standards will be subject to a fine of U.S. $10,000 or a year in prison.
“Although Canadian producers who are certified by a USDA approved certifier will be able to continue to sell their products in the U.S., OTA’s members in Canada would prefer affordable mandatory certification to level the playing field and provide reassurance to Canadian consumers,” said Katherine DiMatteo, Organic Trade Association’s executive director.
Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada published Canada’s National Standard for Organic Agriculture three years ago, but it is a voluntary standard. “The USDA has told us they’re looking at Canada’s submission, and trying to work out how to address the fact that it’s a voluntary standard. Our sense is it would be easier if the Canadian standard were not voluntary," Ron Krystynak of the Market and Industry Services Branch at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., told OTA representatives during OTA’s Congressional Education Day visit there Oct. 3.
According to Krystynak, USDA is allowing a transition period as the regulation is implemented. “Canadian products from this year’s harvest will be accepted,” he said, noting that subsequently, U.S. acceptance of Canada’s standard will be needed for Canadian organic products to enter the United States. Products certified by a USDA accredited certification agency will also be allowed.
This year, the Canadian General Standards Board undertook a review process to ensure that the Canadian organic standards meet domestic and international requirements. When the review is complete, the standard will be submitted to the Standards Council of Canada for final ratification. At this time, however, the organic standard is not slated to become a mandatory, codified federal regulation.
October 29, 2002
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