By Connor Lynch
BERWICK — The definition of organic produce has gotten thoroughly muddled. A lack of provincial regulations has thrown the doors open to anyone who wants to call his produce organic. A farmer can simply say it’s organic as long as it’s sold in Ontario, said Organic Council of Ontario president Tom Manley, of Berwick, near Chesterville.
That’s eroding the strength of the organic brand and creating an unfair market for producers who don’t follow the rules of certification, Manley said. “It dilutes. It confuses. It creates an unfair, uncompetitive playing field, and people wonder, ‘Why pay the premium?’ ”
Organic certification is a three-year process in which farmers have to adopt organic procedures and pay premiums for organic seed or feed and can’t charge a premium for their product until the farm is certified.
“I go to some kind of public event, and I see on the schedule, ‘What’s organic to you?’ What do you mean, what’s organic to you? There’s only one definition of organic,” he said, adding that all the uncertified claims of being organic confuse what the term really means.
Manley said a livestock farmer he knows calls the meat from his farm organic but the farm isn’t certified and the farmer feeds his animals non-organic feed. Most of the producers making uncertified organic claims are smaller producers because commercial-scale farmers tend to export outside the province and need to be certified organic to do that, he said.
The organic council wants the provincial government to step in and apply certified organic rules within the province, Manley said.
Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick enforce the certified organic rules in their provinces. British Columbia will be doing the same starting in 2018.