Demystifying Organics

Demystifying Organics

Demystifying Organics

Organic agriculture:

  • is a way of farming in harmony with nature and encourages reduction in off-farm inputs thereby consuming less of the world’s resources to produce food.
  • has, as a goal, the improvement of the ecosystems in which food and fibre are produced.
  • is committed to ensuring that livestock are able to live out their lives with access to adequate and good quality food, are able to socialise normally, do not damage aquatic life through unrestricted access to riparian areas, and are slaughtered in the most humane manner possible.
  • does not claim to produce food free of contaminants – all organic food is produced on this earth, no part of which has escaped damage from chemical agriculture and other industrial processes.
  • it will, however, leave that piece of land or group of animals better off than if farmed following chemical-dependent agriculture – organic practices are hope for the future.
  • requires a 36 month transition period from the last application of a prohibited substance to land under organic management before the products from that land qualify as certified organic.


  • is necessary when the food (or fibre) producer is distant from those who consume the products of a given farm – it stands in place of a relationship of trust and knowledge that can exist between a farm and the community it serves when there is a genuine geographical and personal connection.
  • involves an independent, contracted inspector (verification officer) who visits the farm site, assesses the health of livestock, soil, and crops; assesses the presence of habitat for wildlife and beneficial insects; inspects storage buildings and barns to ensure that prohibited materials are not kept or used on site; reviews documents to determine if the volume of product going to market is in keeping with the production capacity of the farm (audit); and reviews general compliance with the organic standards used by the contracting certification body (CB).
  • is the responsibility of a CB’s Certification Committee which does not have direct contact with the applicant (arms length, also known as “third party”), reviews the application documents as well as the verification officer’s report, and determines if the applicant is in full compliance with the standards.
  • can involve the use of conditional certificates which cover a shorter term than the usual year long certificate term and which entail the fulfillment of a set of conditions which will enable the applicant to come into full compliance with the standards.
  • will be denied to any applicant if there is evidence that they are contravening fundamental aspects of organic management practices.


  • Certified Organic Associations of BC has 11 certification body members, mostly geographically based. All the CBs use the National Organic Production Systems General Principles and Management Standards and Permitted Substances List and one also certifies under the Demeter biodynamic standards [link:] . The farms, processors and handlers/distributors certified by each CB are listed on the COABC Website.
  • The Canadian General Standards Board administers (but does not certify) the national organic standard. ADD SOMETHING ABOUT MAINTENANCE OF STDS AND COMMENTS/ SUBMISSIONS
  • Both COABC and the National Standards require a 36-month period of transition from the last application of prohibited substances for land used for agriculture for the resulting products to qualify as certified organic.


  • The processes used by CBs to certify enterprises are reviewed for accuracy and appropriateness – this is called accreditation. In BC this accreditation is provided by the Ministry of Agriculture.