A local farmer and head of several provincial organizations applauds efforts to make the meaning of the word organic clear to consumers.
A proposed change will require all products marketed as organic in B.C. to be certified under either a provincial or national certification program. Operators producing and selling their organic products strictly within B.C. will require provincial certification. B.C. companies with customers in other provinces or countries will require certification by a federally accredited body, just as they do today.
“For me I think it’s a great positive move and the organic industry has been working with the provincial government to have this happen for quite awhile,” Kevin Klippenstein, owner of Klippers Organics in Cawston, said during a telephone interview Monday.
The new provincial certification program follows the same standards as the national program, but with streamlined record keeping and documentation practices.
Provincial certification offers growers access to the local organic market with less paperwork, while still ensuring B.C. consumers have certainty when purchasing organic foods.
Klippenstein, who is the chair of the Organic Farming Institute of BC, grows a variety of fruits and vegetables at his 40-acre farm in Cawston. Most of the produce is sold at farmers’ markets and to restaurants.
He spends a great deal of time educating customers about what makes his produce organic opposed to other BC growers who make the same claim but don’t have the certification.
“Certified organics, not certified organics. It makes it very difficult for anyone to differentiate what’s organic,” he said. “Basically to be certified you go through a process of inspections by a third party to ensure what you’re doing is organic. But the guy next door at this point doesn’t have to do anything, he can just tell you his product is organic because he doesn’t use sprays on the plant. But what he is doing is using sprays around the base of the plant or something else.”
Klippenstein explained that even some organic farmers use sprays of some kind but that they cannot be synthetic and must be natural based.
“We don’t use any sprays at our farm,” he said. “We use different methods, crop rotation, companion planting. It’s all about building your soil and creating an ecosystem.”
Although guidelines for the organic certification have not been fully decided a good framework is starting to develop, Klippenstein said, and he’s eager to hear more in the coming months.
“I think it’s going to be great for the consumer. It’s not going to make the organic farmer any more money necessarily but it’s going to ensure the consumer is getting what they think they are buying,” he said.
If new guidelines are passed, following the development of an effective and efficient administration and enforcement system and a suitable period of transition, producers and processors that are not certified under either the provincial or federal certification program would not be able to use the term organic to describe or market their products.
Producers, processors and handlers of organic products including farm gate sales, farmers’ markets and retail stores, would be required to have documentation verifying their accredited certification.
Reports by citizens concerned that an uncertified product produced and sold exclusively within B.C. was being marketed as organic would be investigated by the B.C. government.
In addition to conversations with Certified Organic Associations of BC (COABC) and individual farmers, the ministry will be distributing an e-survey seeking input from organic farmers about the proposed model. The responses will be compiled and used to determine how the model being developed should proceed.
“By working with B.C. organic sector stakeholders, we’ll develop a model that creates consumer and industry certainty around organic products, and ensures transitional strategies are in place to help small businesses seeking the benefits of joining a brand of recognized organic standards,” B.C. Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick stated in a press release. “There are huge opportunities for local organic food producers in B.C. and around the world and this is a key step the B.C. government and stakeholders are taking to best take advantage of them.”