Recent News and Activities - Organic Trade Association
Organic Trade Association
   twitter   facebook   linked In   rss

Recent News and Activities


OTA Canada logo

Your source for the latest information on "Canada Organic"

Latest Regulations Reports About Membership

January 2014

COTA Guelph Event
COTA, Quality Assurance International and The Big Carrot hosted an event at the Guelph Organic Conference to showcase the recently published Toxin Toxout. Authors Bruce Lourie and Rick Smith have crafted a first-hand account of the harmful chemicals that are part of our everyday lives, and how to avoid them. Thanks to our sponsors, the first 50 people that arrived received a free copy of the book.

New Study on Canadian Market
COTA's "Canada's Organic Market, 2013 - Growth, Trends and Opportunities" is on sale now. This in-depth publication provides the most up-to-date and comprehensive overview of Canadian organic agriculture and market, combining consumer research with sales data to provide valuable insight into market size, growth trends and Canadian consumers. COTA and OTA members benefit from a 55% discount. For further information visit the OTA bookstore.

December 2013

COTA Comments
COTA's Matthew Holmes was invited to speak before the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food on the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the effects it would have on the Canadian agriculture sector. Holmes highlighted the promise and precedent established by the Canada-EU 2011 organic equivalency arrangement, but focused on how it has harmed Canadian processors through its restrictive requirement for 100 percent Canadian origin ingredients. Holmes called on Canada's policymakers to complete the organic equivalency before moving on to the more comprehensive implementation of the free trade agreement.

COTA in Hong Kong
COTA Board of Directors member Maureen Kirkpatrick (The Big Carrot) was recently in Hong Kong leading a series of workshops and seminars. Coordinated by the Hong Kong Baptist University and the Hong Kong Organic Resource Centre, the event was held to help educate and strenghten the local industry. Invited as a COTA representative, Kirkpatrick led a workshop on organic retailing, and gave an update on the Canadian organic market.

Organic Value Chain Round Table Meetings
COTA took part in the latest Organic Value Chain Round Table (OVCRT) meetings in Ottawa. The OVCRT group is one of eleven commodity groups created to ensure communication between the federal and provincial governments and key industry leaders throughout the value chain - input suppliers, producers, processors, food service industries, retailers, traders and associations.

Standards Review Progress
COTA attended the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) Organic Committee meetings in Gatineau, QC. The committee worked through the proposed amendments to the Canadian organic standards submitted by operators and stakeholders. With 200 items on the review work list for the standard CAN/CGSB-32.311-2006 and more than 150 items related to the Permitted Substances List, the full review has a proposed two-year calendar.

November 2013

Government of Canada supporting organic
The Government of Canada announced their investment of $500,000 to assist the Canadian organic industry in updating the standards and pursuing new domestic and international markets. The announcement was made in New Brunswick at the 14th annual Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network Conference and Trade Show by MP Robert Goguen on behalf of federal agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. At the announcement, COTA received over $200,000 to assist with a promotional marketing support for domestic and export markets. To find out more see the official press release.

ACORN Conference
The 14th Annual Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network conference & trade show took place November 20-22 in Moncton New Brunswick. The three day conference offered almost 60 workshops focusing on regional and out-of-region expertise on organic farming topics. COTA's Matthew Holmes attended and co-hosted an organic market consultation session with Beth Pomper, a market expert and former trade commissioner.

Dag Falck elected President of COTA Board
The COTA Board of Directors elected Dag Falck of Nature's Path Foods as President. Falck will also serve as Vice President - Canada on OTA's Board of Directors. Falck replaces Ian Walker of Left Coast Naturals, who has left the COTA Board for personal reasons but remains committed to COTA, and hopes to re-engage in leading the organic sector in the future. COTA congratulates Dag, and thank sIan for his service and leadership.

October 2013

CFIA joins Health Canada
The Canadian Government kicked off a transition plan to shift the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to join Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada in reporting to the Honorable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health. The reorganization will strengthen Canada's food safety system by bringing all three authorities responsible for food safety under one Minister. To find out more, visit the Health Canada website.

Toronto GMO panel
COTA's Matthew Holmes was at CHFA Expo East moderating a panel on GMOs. The twi-hour conference session focused on the scientific, legislative and policy environment in Canada, as well as perspectives on GMO labeling. The panel included Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Netowrk (CBAN); Dr. Ralph Martin, Professor and the Loblaw Chair in Sustainable Food Production at Ontario Agricultural College, University of Guelph; and Rene Van Acker, Professor and Associate Dean of the Ontario Agricultural College, University of Guelph.

Labeling modernization initiative
COTA completed a Canadian Food Inspection Agency questionnaire to identify the needed changes to Canada's food labels. COTA called for the labeling of products that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the allowance of a "certified organic" label claim, definition and control of the "natural" label claim, as well as expanding the scope of the Organic Products Regulations to include organic products traded intra-provincially (grown and sold within one province). This questionnaire is the first step in the national consultation on labeling modernization.

September 2013

GE Free British Columbia
On September 19, the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) passed a resolution to formally request BC provincial government legislate make the province a GE Free Zone with respect to plants, seeds and animals that have been genetically engineered. This would of course include the proposed GE apples and GE salmon. The resolution passed with a vote of 60/40. There are currently 15 GE Free zones in BC, and ten communities have built it into their official plans.

Organic Week
Organic Week 2013 was a runaway success! The organic message received plenty of promotion across the country, including the alive magazine coverage and the Globe and Mail special report on organic. Additionally, over a hundred events took place and both New Brunswick and British Columbia proclaimed Organic Week. Please visit our website for more information.

CFIA Consultation of Food Safety Systems
The Government of Canada has opened a consultation around revisions to the food safety systems under the Safe Food For Canadians Act (SFCA). The new system will consolidate and modernize the various Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) systems developed over past decades. CFIA published a Framework for Federal Food Inspection Discussion Document, which lays out the plans for the food industry, deadline to comment is November 30, 2013.

August 2013

Meetings on Japan Equivalency Negotiations
COTA is collecting information to response to questions the Japan Ministry of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries has submitted regarding organic equivalency. After two rounds of member consultations, COTA submitted to CFIA the proposed responses to the questions. These responses will play a crucial part in the ongoing negotiations between Canada and Japan. COTA will continue to share updates with members as the talks develop.

COTA election results
Election results are now in for COTA’s Board of Directors. COTA is pleased to announce incumbent Kelly Monaghan (Ash Street Organics) will return to COTA’s Board for three years, and will be joined by newcomer Maureen Kirkpatrick (The Big Carrot). COTA’s incoming Board will now appoint a third candidate for a three-year term, as per COTA’s bylaws. COTA thanks all candidates who put their names forward, and our membership—which came out with a record 39 percent of eligible voters participating. The incoming Board will soon elect its executive, as well as the COTA representative on the OTA Board, and will first meet in early September.

New President at CFIA
Effective August 12, Bruce Archibald replaced George Da Pont as President of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Archibald has a Ph.D., Environmental Toxicology (with distinction), a Master of Science, Physiology/Biochemistry, and a Bachelor of Science, Agriculture (Honours) from the University of Guelph. He has most recently been president of the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario and has a great deal of experience in the senior ranks of both federal and provincial public service. Archibald is not expected to change the modernization processes currently underway within the CFIA. George Da Pont is moving to a new position as deputy health minister.

July 2013

Seed Research
COTA hired a seed researcher. Marie-Eve Levert joins COTA with extensive experience in both non-profits and research. The bulk of Marie-Eve’s research has been on food policy, with a particular focus on seed governance, food studies and regulation. Marie-Eve holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Ottawa, and has authored multiple scientific papers. Marie-Eve’s research will help COTA contribute to the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed security coordinated by USC Canada.

Minister Ritz holds agriculture file
Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Gerry Ritz has held on to the agriculture file during the cabinet shuffle held on the second week of July. The Saskatchewan Member of Parliament has held the position since 2007, making him one of the longest-serving continuous ministers in Canadian history. Under Minister Ritz's oversight, Canadian Organic Products Regulations and standards were implemented, and major organic trade arrangements were struck with the United States, European Union and Switzerland.

COTA At BioFach Latin America
COTA attended BioFach Latin America in São Paulo, Brazil, June 27-30. The largest organic trade show in South America, the event was held in conjunction with BioBrazil. COTA’s Matthew Holmes spoke as part of an International Panel covering developments in the Canadian organic market, including equivalency, consumer attitudes, and emerging trends highlighted in COTA’s Organic Marketplace Research Program.

June 2013

CFIA Modernization Initiative
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has created an email notification system to alert subscribers on its significant modernization of the current regulatory system. These include CFIA's new food regulations, inspection approaches and labelling. You can subscribe by selecting "Modernization initiatives" on the CFIA website

GM Alfalfa Update
The Canadian food Inspection Agency recently approved the variety registration for a "RoundUp Ready" genetically modified (GM) alfalfa marketed by Forage Genetics International. Although the product has been approved for release since 2005, this approval allows for the variety to be sold legally in Canada. GM alfalfa seeds are not yet on the market in Canada, and organic and non-GM advocates plan continued actions to fight its release.

Equivalency Developments
COTA is currently reviewing draft analysis for a potential equivalency with Japan. Work is underway to assess differences in the standards and formalize trade between the jurisdictions.

OMRI Canada Pilot Project
The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) will launch its new Canada Pilot Program to review inputs for compliance to the Canada Organic Regime. Initially, the program will only extend to products already OMRI Listed to USDA National Organic Program standards. Later in 2013, OMRI plans to accept applications for products not currently OMRI Listed.

May 2013

IRDA inaugurates organic agriculture research center
The Research and Development institute for the Agri-Environment (IRDA) inaugurated the Organic Agriculture Innovation Platform (OAIP) last week. Located in Saint-Bruno-De-Montarville, Quebec, the 90-hectare piece of land is the largest organic agriculture research site in Quebec and Canada. OAIP has received $13.1 million in funding, with $7.5 million for infrastructure and $860,000 in seed money, and will house 34 research partners.

Manitoba Proclaims Organic Agricultural Products Act
On May 4th, Manitoba adopted its Organic Agricultural Products Act (OAPA), becoming the first Canadian province to pass a law that mirrors the federal regulations, relying on the same system of federally accredited Certification Bodies to ensure that organic operators comply with organic standards. OAPA will come into force July 1, will apply to all food products grown, processed and sold in Manitoba that make an organic claim.

COTA new office
At the beginning of May, COTA moved into its new long-term location in Ottawa. The new office is based out the office tower at the Royal Ottawa Hospital and shared with Fairtrade Canada and Canadian Organic Growers. The move is part of an effort to continue to strengthen relationships with similar organizations based in Ottawa. COTA’s mailing address and contact info remain unchanged.

April 2013

Organic Week 2013 Update
Organic Week 2013 sponsorships are now open. Join us and become a part of Canada’s biggest organic celebration! Coordinated by Canadian Organic Growers, COTA and Canadian Health Food Association, Organic Week has become the premier marketing campaign for reaching consumers, media and policy-makers in Canada. There are two levels of sponsorships, and benefits range from logo recognition on print and digital media to special advertising rates in the Globe & Mail. For further information, download the Sponsor Sheet.

Canadian Statistics
The results from the first phase of the Canada Organic Trade Association’s (COTA’s) Organic Marketplace Research project are now public. The data show that Canada’s organic market grew to $3.7 billion (Canadian dollars) in 2012, with national sales of certified organic food and non-alcoholic beverages reaching $3 billion. The data also determined that the sector’s growth is being driven by a diverse consumer base, with over half of all Canadians and two-thirds of British Columbians buying organic products every week. Further information and a pdf version of the preliminary results are available on the Statistics Page.

Canada-Costa Rica Equivalency
The Canadian Organic Office has announced the Canada-Costa Rica Organic Equivalency Arrangement. The arrangement will allow for easier import and export of certified organic products between Canada and Costa Rica without the need for additional certification, thus reducing costs and red tape. For further information on the recognition of equivalency with Costa Rica, visit the CFIA website.

March 2013

Canadian Standards Revision
COTA has learned that the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) has reached a long-sought agreement with the Canadian General Standards Board to fund a full review and renewal of Canada’s organic standards and permitted substances list. By some estimates, the Canadian organic standards have over 300 active work-list items for consideration, and also require a full five-year review of all sections. The permitted substances list will also be fully reviewed. This is a major achievement. Over the past three years, COTA has made this the priority for all our exchanges with the government, including the Ottawa Parliament Day. SCC is said to be committing up to $600,000 over two years to the standards review. Stay tuned!

Organic Week welcomes new partner
The Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) is joining Organic Week founders COTA and Canadian Organic Growers (COG) as a partner organization in 2013. CHFA is a membership-based association dedicated to natural health and organic products, with a strong retail membership. COTA, COG and CHFA will join efforts to coordinate Organic Week 2013 taking place Sept. 21-28. More details can be found in the official press release.

COTA at House of Commons
COTA’s Matthew Holmes testified before the Agriculture and Agri-Food Standing Committee at the House of Commons. The committee was taking comments on the Agricultural and Agri-Food Supply Chain, and specifically pertaining to Low Level Presence (LLP) of GMOs in imports. COTA has taken a strong position regarding the proposed allowance of 0.1 percent unapproved GM materials in non-GM imports. COTA has expressed concern that the organic sector will bear the disproportionate cost and exposure of the impact “downstream.” The proposed Canadian LLP allowance was submitted to the World Trade Organization last fall.

February 2013

COTA at Biofach 2013
COTA led a successful Canadian mission to BioFach 2013 this past week, with strong branding presence and many members exhibiting and walking the show. Matthew Holmes represented both OTA and COTA to present new information on the North American organic market and consumer, as part of a panel revealing findings of the 2013 edition of the World of Organic Agriculture, published by IFOAM and FiBL. At the presentation, Holmes forecast the combined North American organic market would be valued at $35 billion for the United States and $3 billion in Canada for 2012. Find the FiBL Press Release here.

Organic Week dates now Announced
The dates for organic week have now been announced. This year, our fourth annual celebration will be held Sept. 21-28. Organic Week is a unique opportunity for members of the organic sector in Canada to unite and create awareness on the benefits of organic agriculture and products. For more information visit the Organic Week website.

OVCRT Meetings
COTA attended the Organic Value Chain Round Table meetings the first week of February. Held in Ottawa, the meetings are attended by representatives of all levels of the organic sector to discuss issues such as branding strategy, consumer confusion and GMO issues. To find out more, visit the OVCRT website.

January 2013

COTA & COG To work closer
COTA and Canadian Organic Growers (COG) agreed to share office space in Ottawa to help streamline the operations of both associations whose members represent a cross-section of the full organic sector. COTA and COG expect this move will maximize efficiencies in addressing the needs of organic producers, processors, distributors and traders, as well as generate more effective messaging to consumers. Read the full press release here.

Canada-Swiss Organic Equivalency Agreement
Canada continued to chart new territory for international organic trade with the late-December announcement of an organic equivalency arrangement with Switzerland. Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz was quoted as saying: “This arrangement with Switzerland will eliminate trade barriers to give Canadian organic producers a competitive edge in the Swiss organic market. Canadian consumers will also benefit by having increased access to Swiss organic food options.” To find out more please visit the CFIA website.

CFIA defends Canada's Organic Regime
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s President George Da Pont wrote a response to misleading allegations on the legitimacy of organic products in Canada. The allegations, posted on the Spectator, focused on a recent article by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy titled “Canada’s Organic Food System is a Nightmare.” In his response, Da Pont highlights the Canadian regulatory requirements for organic certification and CFIA’s involvement in the process via monitoring and enforcement. The response also highlights CFIA-accredited certification bodies that are responsible for verifying that organic operators are producing organic products. To see the full response, visit the Spectator website.

December 2012

Safe Food for Canadians
On Nov. 20, the new Safe Food for Canadians Act was passed by the House of Commons. The Act consolidates the authorities of the Fish Inspection Act, the Canada Agricultural Products Act, the Meat Inspection Act, and the food provisions of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act. The Act was designed to protect consumers by targeting unsafe practices through a more consistent inspection of all foods, implementing tougher penalties for offenders, providing better control over imports and strengthening food traceability. Full information is available on the CFIA web site.

Canadian Organic Marketplace Research Program
The organic market in Canada is growing at a rate much faster than the conventional grocery sector, but a detailed analysis of market growth is lacking. COTA is responding to this information gap by launching the first comprehensive market study of the Canadian organic marketplace since the government regulated the sector in 2009.

This study will provide new sales data on organic grocery categories from fresh produce to packaged goods and will include sales figures for the primary distribution channels to provide a full picture of the Canadian organic market. COTA will also provide an analysis of consumer research that provides a deeper understanding of purchasing habits, attitudes towards organic and origin labels, as well as the demographics of key consumer groups in Canada.

View the Canadian Organic Market Research Factsheet for more information.

November 2012

Prairie Tour
COTA’s Matthew Holmes recently was in Saskatchewan and Alberta meeting with organic producers and processors from across the Prairies. Holmes was a keynote speaker at the Organic Connections Conference and Trade Show in Regina from Nov. 2-3. He then traveled to Edmonton to deliver a keynote address to the 2012 National Hemp Convention on developments in the organic sector, opportunities for producers to integrate hemp into their organic rotations, and new marketing initiatives.

Organic Sector Responds
COTA, along with 14 other signatories, wrote to The National Post in response to a Nov. 24th article highlighting an untruthful report about organic prepared by the Frontier Centre. You can view the letter here.

British Columbia leads on banning GMOs
On Nov. 19, the Council of Saanich, British Columbia, voted unanimously against the use of genetically modified seed crops within the District of Saanich. The Council further moved to write to the federal Minister of Agriculture, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and local Members of Parliament in support of mandatory labeling of GMO foods. Saanich is the seventh BC municipality to ban GM seed crops, joining Powell River, Nelson, New Denver, Kaslo, Rossland, and Richmond.

Safe food for Canadians
On Nov. 20, the new Safe Food for Canadians Act was passed by the House of Commons. The Act consolidates the authorities of the Fish Inspection Act, the Canada Agricultural Products Act, the Meat Inspection Act, and the food provisions of the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act. The Act was designed to protect consumers by targeting unsafe practices through a more consistent inspection of all foods, implementing tougher penalties for offenders, providing better control over imports and strengthening food traceability. Full information is available on the CFIA web site.

October 2012

Parliament Day 2012
COTA and Canadian Organic Growers (COG) hosted the third annual Parliament day on October 23 in Ottawa. The most important preeminent policy and strategy event of the Canadian organic sector, Parliament Day unites policymakers, business leaders and members of the organic community to celebrate and discuss the sector. The highlight of the event was the special all organic reception held at the House of Commons and hosted by Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen.

Investment in Organics
Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced two investments to enhance Canada’s organic food industry’s competitiveness in global and domestic markets. The announcement, made during Parliament Day hosted by COTA and the Canadian Organic Growers (COG), included $180,000 to COTA from the AgriMarketing Program to participate in international trade shows, develop promotional materials, and build a long-term international strategy for the organic sector, and $152,000 from the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program to the Organic Council of Ontario to enable producers to develop innovative tools and technologies to benefit the sector. To see the press release click here.

September 2012

Organic Week 2012
The Canada Organic Trade Association (COTA) and Canadian Organic Growers (COG) coordinated the third annual Organic Week which was a huge success. Hundreds of events took place across the country to celebrate the organic sector, companies launched new organic product lines, and both the province of British Columbia and Manitoba proclaimed the week of September 22-29 as Organic Week. COTA & COG officially thank all of our sponsors and supporters.

AgriMarketing Program meetings
COTA's Matthew Holmes was in Ottawa to attend the AMP/Trade Commissioner meetings. 43 trade commissioners from various markets attended, who congregated to discuss issues that affect national and international access and market trade. COTA attended to represent and discuss the issues that affect the organic sector.

Organics in the News
The Globe and Mail published its Organic Week special organic insert on September 26. The insert included GM issues as well as educational information. To download a copy of the insert, click here.

Archived COTA News and Activities

Return to the
Canada Organic Trade Association page.

2014 Annual Fund

Research and Promotion 2012