COABC - Certification

The British Columbia Certified Organic Program is a voluntary agri-food quality program and is open to any resident or business operating in the province that undertakes to comply with program requirements.

Products certified as organic by an ISO Certification Body (CB) are considered compliant with the federal Organic Products Regulation and may display the Canada logo if desired. These products may also carry the BCCO checkmark. Organic products certified under a CB’s Regional Program may only display the BCCO checkmark.

What is the difference between Regional and ISO Certification Bodies?

Both types of agencies can certify products to the British Columbia Certified Organic Program (BCCOP) while ISO agencies can also certify to the Canada Organic Regime (COR) thus allowing the certified organic product to be shipped out of the province. BCCOP Certified Organic products can display the BCCOP checkmark on approved labels, while COR certified products can also use the Canada Organic Regime logo.

Certification Bodies Accredited by the COABC

Regional Program:

Bio-Dynamic - Province wide
BOPA - Boundary Area
IOPA - Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands
KOGS - Kootenay Area
LEOGA - South Okanagan, Similkameen
NOOA - Province wide
SOOPA - Simillkameen, South Okanagan
STOPA - Shuswap Thompson Area

ISO Program:

BCARA - Canada wide
FVOPA - Canada wide
PACS - Canada wide

Steps to Certification

The basic steps to certification are the same for all CBs. A brief overview is given here. For more detailed instructions please contact the Certification Body of your choice.  Please note that COABC itself is not a CB, it accredits Certification Bodies.

  1. Operator completes application form and submits with fees to the local Certifying Body
  2. CB’s Certification Committee (CC) reviews application
  3. A qualified Verification Officer assigned to complete site inspection
  4. Inspection of operation and submission of report to CC
  5. CC reviews file to determine status
  6. Communication of report and issues (if any) to operator
  7. Follow-up inspection (if necessary). Steps 6 & 7 repeated until issues resolved
  8. Issuance of Status Certificate

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to get certified?

The British Columbia standards outline a 36-month time frame for transitional status for any type of soil based farming operation. This time is the minimum necessary from the last input of prohibited substances or practices. If the grower can provide assurance that this time has effectively passed then the grower can enter the Certification Process in the Third Year of Transition. Land base operations must submit their initial application fifteen months prior to when organic product will be first marketed to satisfy the twelve months of transition needed under the direction of a Certification Body.

Bee colonies, dairy and slaughter breeding herds have a 12 month transition requirement which can be satisfied simultaneously as the final year of land transition. 

Food processing, sprout production, and container grown systems can be certified once the CB has completed the initial inspection and review process and is assured there is compliance. Inspections must be done during an organic run, thus for new applications two inspections maybe required.

How do I know what prohibited inputs are?

The Standards include an extensive list of possible inputs. This generic Permitted Substance List provides a description of the use of the input as well as any restrictions on an inputs use.

Who will come to inspect my farm?

All Verification Officers (VOs) in BC must be current members of the International Organic Inspectors Association. This association is responsible for training inspectors world-wide to perform inspections on operations from orchards and gardens through to complex processing plants. The inspectors are committed to organic farming practices and exercise the highest level of integrity for confidentiality and professionalism.

How much will it cost me?

The costs vary amongst the Certifying Bodies. Some fees are all inclusive and some are broken down between certification administration and inspection. Regardless of the individual cost which you can find by contacting the Certification Body, there are set costs for membership in the COABC which each applicant must pay. This fee is a sliding scale fee based on gross organic income. Each fee is payable each season and may change from year to year.

Can I grow organically in one part of my farm only?

The whole farm policy is not identified in the Standards which are the minimum standard for entire country. Some Certifying Bodies prohibit non-organic in the same farm. Please ask your Certifying Body.