Organic Standards Interpretation Committee

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The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), collaborating with representatives of the organic sector, has created an advisory body; the Standards Interpretation Committee (SIC), to assist in the interpretation of the Canadian Organic Standard (CAN/CGSB 32.310 and CAN/CGSB 32.311). Early in the process of writing the rules which govern organic production in Canada, the stakeholders recognized the need for authoritative answers to questions about what the standard means. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, charged with enforcement of the rules, have determined that these questions cannot be adequately addressed without the guidance of an advisory body which brings together the collective knowledge of the different sectors of the organic industry.

Design of the Standards Interpretation Committee

The design of the SIC, the appointment of members and its ongoing operation has been the result of cooperation between the CFIA and its industry counterpart, the Organic Federation of Canada (OFC). See the Terms of Reference for the SIC for more information. OFC is the national organization which represents the organic sector to the federal Government on matters of regulation of the industry. OFC has umbrella groups in each of the 10 provinces, and Yukon, who strive to include all levels of the organic value chain within their activities. A representative of each of these groups and an ex-officio ministry of Agriculture official from each province make up the OFC Board. The OFC is officially responsible for naming the members of the SIC and for ensuring that the seven people named have collective expertise in the following designated areas:

  • crop producers
  • livestock producers
  • processors (food manufacturers)
  • importers, distributors, and retailers
  • certification bodies and
  • certification body inspectors

Request for interpretations

Questions regarding the Canadian Organic Standard can be submitted to the OPR email address at cfia.opr-rpb.acia@canada.ca. Those questions that require the input of the SIC are compiled and sent to the Committee Members for comment. Periodically the Committee convenes and discusses questions posed in order to develop agreed to answers. The OFC then posts the proposed answers for a 60 day comment period and unless there is strong, irresolvable opposition voiced by the sector, the interpretation will become an official interpretation of the Canadian Organic Standard. The final answers are then posted under a Questions and Answers section of the OFC page.

The SIC has no authority to revise the Canadian Organic Standard. If faced with a question that highlights an instance of ambiguity or apparent contradiction in the wording of the Standard, the SIC may propose a revision which would involve the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) Technical Committee for Organic Agriculture. The existence of the SIC, with the ability to resolve varying interpretations of the Standard in a timely fashion, gives the Canada Organic Regime a unique ability to achieve uniform application of the rules to all operators through the CFIA accredited certification bodies.

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