Organic Food

Welcome to the Certified Organic Associations of British Columbia’s new entrant orientation page. This resource should help you find the tools you need to start your organic journey.

Selecting a Certification Body (CB)

For products traded exclusively within BC, consider any number of COABC regionally accredited certifiers.

To access markets outside of BC, a COR accredited certification body is required:

Organic certification in BC with COABC CB's

  • What is the difference between Regional and COR Certification Bodies?
    • Both types of CBs can certify products to the British Columbia Certified Organic Program (BCCOP). These Certified Organic products can display the BCCOP checkmark on approved labels.
    • BCCOP Certified Organic products can display the BCCOP checkmark on approved labels, while COR certified products can also use the Canada Organic logo.
    • Click here to review these logo options.
    • A service comparison chart for COABC CBs
  • Steps to Certification
  • Frequently Asked Questions

Direct links to the Canadian Organic Standards

How to interpret the Standards and answers to other questions

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, in partnership with the Organic Federation of Canada, has created an advisory body, the Standards Interpretation Committee (SIC), to assist in the interpretation of the Canadian Organic Standards (CAN/CGSB 32.310, CAN/CGSB 32.311 and CAN/CGSB 32.312).

Answers to other questions ... by the COABC Accreditation Board (AB)
Part of the function of the AB is to respond to questions presented by its accredited CBs with regards to standards, labelling, and the certification process. Click here to read the AB's answers to a variety of questions.

Click here for frequently asked questions on general certification process.

Resources to assure transition success

Excellent information is provided in COABC's FAQs. More in-depth overviews are available from Ontario, Brunswick and the Canadian Organic Growers.

The Rodale Institute has a free publicly accessible online course. The Organic Trade Association also has an extensive online collection for both producers and processors. You may want to purchase the following COG manual Gaining Ground: Making a Successful Transition to Organic Farming.

For livestock operations consider reading Manitoba's 2012 Organic Livestock Production and COABC's Organic Dairy Farming in Canada FAQs.

Logo options

Click here for How to Use the Official Marks

The difference between the Permitted Substances Lists and brand name products

One of the most challenging tasks in organic certification is determining whether or not a commercial brand name product is allowed. The CAN/CGSB 32.311 Permitted Substances Lists (PSL) only identifies generic substances that can be used with or without restrictions. At this time neither Canada nor the USA have a unified national brand name directory, making it difficult to readily know if a brand name input or ingredient is okay to use.

Some Certification Bodies (CBs) maintain their own brand name product databases indicating whether or not an input is acceptable– be sure to ask your certification body if they maintain one. There are some third party lists that operators may use as references, but your the CB is your final authority. Using non-permitted substances and input products will jeopardize your ability to certify your product.

Another option is to ask your own CB to review the product documentation you have secured from the supplier. Sometimes it is challenging to obtain sufficient product ingredient details from suppliers since they consider it competitive information and may be unwilling to share the details.

Current third party brand name resources

The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) launched an OMRI Canadian Program in 2013, building on the success of its American program where it reviews, approves, and lists inputs compliant to the USDA Organic Program. Products compliant to the Canada Organic Standard that apply to OMRI for Canadian approval status are identified and listed on the OMRI Canada Products List©. CBs are the final authorities for input approval. Be sure to check with your CB even if a product is OMRI Canada Listed.

Other lists

The following are compilations of products reviewed by various CBs or institutions, and could help you identify compliant inputs of interest. These list also need to be used with caution, especially as most references to OMRI reflect inputs compliant to the USDA Organic Program. Therefore continue to practice due diligence and always check with your CB.

ACORN's Directory of Organic Inputs (July 2012/pdf)

The Centre D'expertise et de Transfert en Agriculture Biologique et de Proximité of Québec's Brand Name List.

Organic Federation of Canada's Canadian Directory of Brand Name Inputs Allowed in Organic Agriculture.

Tools to help with certification documentation

Many CBs provide documentation templates, but having records that serve both your business and certification needs are ideal. If interested in electronic record keeping, read Chris Bodnar’s 2013 in-depth review of Software Tools for the Small Farm in the BC Organic Grower magazine (Vol16N3).

Check out Rowena Hopkins and Roxanne Beavers' 2008 Record Keeping for Streamlined Certification and Farmer Sanity, or buy a copy of Record Keeping for Organic Growers by these two authors from COG, and download the templates. Lastly there is Tracy Lundberg-Schimpf's 2004 A Tracking System for Organic Farmers.

The National Sustainable Agricultural Information Service, also has record-keeping forms for crops and livestock. All of these can be found in Documentation Forms for Organic Crop and Livestock Producers. Care must be taken when using this USA resource as there are differences in organic requirements between the US and Canada.

Production Resources

The COABC listserve may also be a good forum to ask other producers for ideas and opinions.

For specific production questions phone 778-666-0587 or email karina.sakalauskas(a) the BCMAOrganic Specialist.

Conduct your own research, eg. through a search engine online

Always check with your CB or for more information about the standards.

Marketing Organic Food Resources

Click here for these resources

Making the Switch to Organic

With three new business guides for conventional producers, the OVCRT aims to convince more farmers and processors to get the "Organic Advantage."

Canada's organic sector needs to significantly increase its production capacity to keep up with the ever-growing consumer demand for organic products. To help spur growth in the sector, the Organic Value Chain Roundtable (OVCRT) has recently released three new guides targeted to conventional growers that provide a strong business case for going organic. Each commodity-specific guide provides beef, grain and vegetable producers with an overview of the economics, market opportunities, and government/industry resources available to help guide new entrants towards a successful transition.