It’s Underway – Change to the Canadian Organic Standards

Seeds from Milkweed


The Canadian Organic Standards Revision Process has begun!

This is required to happen every 5 years to keep the Standards relevant, legal, and to maintain equivalency agreements with other countries.

The Committee that is responsible for the revision of the Canadian Organic Standards is called the Technical Committee (or TC for short).

Under the TC, there are working groups for specific categories (Crops, Livestock, Processing, and Maple) and Task Groups (on Greenhouses, Sprouts, Poultry, Pigs, Honey) that recommend wording on Standards to the TC. These working and task groups are made up of people with a specific interest or experience on that category. TC members sit on these groups but also members of the general public.

The TC currently has 36 voting members.

And approximately 60 non-voting members (these are members who don’t vote but get all the information, attend meetings, and can give their opinion as much as they want).

ACORN (the Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network) is a voting member.

I (Shannon from Broadfork Farm in NS) am representing ACORN on the TC in this round of revisions. I also represented ACORN in the last round of revisions. It’s very technical and word-smithy work and I’m glad that the knowledge and experience I got in the last round of revisions will help me during this round.

I also sit on the Crops Working Group which includes the 2 parts of the Standards that relate to the general Crops standards (section 310) and the the Permitted Substances List (section 311).

The TC makes decisions based on Consensus, which in this context means that all negative votes and comments are considered and attempts are made towards a result that all are ok with.

This Revision process will take about 2 years.

In order to keep the ACORN membership up to date, I’ll write up short reports for the ACORN e-news or newsletter (and here on my blog) over the next 2 years. It’s important for me to represent ACORN members as a whole so please share your thoughts with me along the way.

This is all voluntary and I don’t get paid to do it.

But I do learn a lot, am not shy to speak up, and am glad to be able to represent as there aren’t as many other young, small-scale, direct-to-market farmers that sit on the TC and I feel that perspective has been valued and appreciated there.

In our 1st meeting, we went through some recommended changes to the Organic Maple Standards.

Organic Maple is a sector with a lot of interest and growth. There are some suggested changes to reflect that other tree syrups, besides maple, are becoming popular. There aren’t members on the Maple Working Group with specific expertise on Birch or other types of tree syrups. If any of you have expertise or interest in this, consider joining the group. (Neat thing I learned – a growing trend is maple and birch water as local alternatives to coconut water!).


It’s likely that the majority of what you hear about Organic Standards Boards (if you hear anything) is related to the system for revising the Standards in the U.S. (their board is called the NOSB). This is common for us here in Canada as so much of our media and online sources are coming from the States.

The system in Canada is very different than in the U.S.


  • Well, I mentioned that the TC has 36 voting members. The U.S. board only has 15.


  • In Canada, the people on the TC are each representing an organization and the organization selects them. In the States, the USDA appoints them.


  • Canada: the TC runs on Consensus. States: a proposal passes with a 2/3 majority (in the recent vote on allowing hydroponics to be called organic, the proposal passed by 1 vote – an 8 to 7 vote).


  • In Canada, the TC’s revisions stand. In the U.S., the NOP (part of the USDA) can choose to accept or not to accept the recommendations of the NOSB.


I’ll do my best to keep you all informed but I also recommend watching the website of the Organic Federation of Canada for updates as that is the organization that organizes the revisions from the industry’s perspective.

Monarch caterpillar on a milkweed plant

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