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What does “organic food” mean?
Generally speaking, foods labelled as organic are grown or produced without the use of substances such as synthetic (man- made) fertilizers or pesticides, genetically modi ed organisms, growth hormones,
or medications like antibiotics. Farmers growing organic food frequently have to adhere to production standards intended to improve environmental sustainability. This can include a focus on crop rotation, humane livestock management practices, and traceability from farm to fork.
All Canadian products bearing the Canada Organic logo are certi ed by an independent auditor who veri es that
the farm meets the Canadian Organic standard. The Canada Organic standard speci es many production requirements, such as which crop protection
products may be used, and minimum space requirements for livestock. For imported products to be sold labelled as organic, they must meet “equivalency arrangements” by which the regulations and certi cation process of another country are deemed consistent with Canada’s.38
Farmers and the production techniques they use are very diverse, and organic and conventional farmers have a lot in common – some farmers even produce both conventional and organic crops. Sustainable production is key, with
Tim May
Belted Galloway beef cattle
both types of farming focusing on a
wide variety of production techniques, including crop rotation, improving soil health, building local and export markets, and using natural pest control methods. Organic farmers can in fact use naturally derived pesticides to control pests. Just as with crop protection products used
by conventional farmers, however, these substances must be approved by the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, which is part of Health Canada.
Farming isn’t easy, and organic farming poses some unique challenges as some tools available to other farmers are not available to Canada’s certi ed organic producers. Organic techniques also tend to be more labour intensive. Other input costs (e.g. fertilizers, seeds) may be lower, though, and due to increasing demand for organic foods – plus supply shortages
– farmers generally earn more for their products.
There’s a growing market for organic food in Canada. Organic retail sales in Canada are worth $4.7 billion annually, growing at 13.6 per cent every year since 2007.39 And Canadian farmers are working hard to keep up: Canada had 4,289 registered organic farms in 2016.40 Québec has
the highest number of organic farms in Canada, growing from 1,037 such farms in 2011, to 1,268 in 2016.41
This logo indicates a product meets Canada’s organic standard.
26 The Real Dirt on Farming

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