How Do I Know It's Organic?
BC's Organic "Gold Standard"
The BC Certified Organic checkmark is the gold standard for healthy, delicious, BC-grown organic food. It means that every step of the way, from growing and processing to storage, cleaning and food handling, products with the checkmark have met stringent standards for organic food production. These standards are reviewed constantly, and amended as more environmentally-friendly solutions are discovered.
The Certified Organic Associations of BC (COABC) is the only government-approved body responsible for overseeing the BC Certified Organic Program. Agencies accredited by the COABC inspect and certify organic farms and facilities in BC. When you see the checkmark, you can be certain that the product you’re buying has been grown and processed meeting strict BC government-approved standards for organic farm production and processing. The BC Certified Organic Program meets, and in some cases exceeds, the Canadian Organic Standards and the standards set by the American USDA National Organic Program.
The Contract between Organic Farmers and Consumers
Organic certification is the only guarantee to consumers that organic farmers are doing what they say they are doing. Organic Certification can take many forms, but primarily it is a system of site inspection by an independent third party, followed by a review of inspection reports and assignment of organic status. Certifiers look at the process of organic farming, rather than the final product. Food produced in accordance with these standards has been inspected from growth to storage, including handling and waste elimination.
More on Certification in BC
Government Legislation and Control Provides Extra Assurance to the Consumer
Organic certification in BC is governed by the Regulations of the Agri-Food Choice and Quality Act of BC. There is a program of Provincial Organic Standards, government-controlled audit of the certification process, and a province-wide organic designation. The phrase, “British Columbia Certified Organic” - and the accompanying checkmark symbol - can be used only by farmers or processors who are certified under the BC Certified Organic program. There are large legal penalties for their misuse.
Organic Standards are the Basis for Organic Certification
The COABC publishes its Organic Management Standards in the “Guidebook” along with the list of materials which are allowed under the British Columbia Certified Organic program. To see those standards, click here. The Organic Management Standards is a living document and is amended yearly as new information about products and practices becomes recognized. The Organic Management Standards are meant to be used as a guide to the minimum standard only and should be accompanied by organic production guides for relevant crops or livestock.
Steps to Organic Certification in BC
- Farmers must apply for certification to Certification Body.
- Farmers must complete a Certification Application and provide documentation as requested.
- Farm maps, production records, herd health records, material application records are examples of documents which may be required.
- The farm must be inspected by a Verification Officer who is a member in good standing of the International Organic Inspectors Association.
- The farm’s organic status (1st, 2nd, 3rd year transition or Certified Organic) is determined by the Certification Body and the farmer receives a Certificate which allows them to use the phrase B.C. Certified Organic to market their products.
- This process must be completed annually to retain organic status.