MPP Sylvia Jones co-sponsors bill to regulate organic products

April 27, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Brian Lockhart

A provincial private member’s bill that will regulate the labelling of organic products will be re-introduced to the legislature by Sylvia Jones, MPP for Dufferin-Caledon and co-sponsor Peter Tabusn, NDP MPP for Toronto-Danforth.

The bill was originally introduced in September 2017 but due to the prorogation of legislature in March, all bills on the table at that time were removed.

Even though there is a federal regulation for organic products labelling, within Ontario the Canada Organic regime is only enforced for products that carry the Canada Organic Logo. This means that products labelled simply as ‘organic’ and sold in the province face little to no legal repercussion if those claims are inaccurate.

Five other provinces have already adopted regulations to address the need for better oversight of organic claims and ensure consumers and organic farmers are protected.

“This bill will provide further transparency and help ensure that the growing organic industry continues to enjoy consumer confidence,” said Ms. Jones. “I am looking forward to this bill starting a dialogue with farmers and other stakeholders about how Ontario can align itself with the regulations adopted in five other provinces and at the federal level.”

The re-introduction of the bill follows a statement of clear support made by all parties at the Organic Council of Ontario (OCO)’s AGM & Policy Forum where Ms. Jones spoke in a panel on the issue.

The bill was developed in partnership with OCO, the association for organic food producers and businesses in Ontario.

According to OCO President Rob Wallbridge, the bill does more than just address labelling concerns. “Ontario’s 1.4 billion dollar organic market is Canada’s largest, yet when it comes to organic production, we lag behind other provinces,” he said. “A provincial regulation will give Ontario businesses the confidence to invest in the organic sector, laying the foundation for increased supply to meet the huge demand for local and organic products.”

If passed, the legislation will set in place a legal framework to close the regulatory gap in Ontario. Possible supports include tailored certification programs for small-scale farmers making organic claims, and financial aid to help them certify.

The federal organic regulation, created in 2009, provides a legal definition for ‘organic,’ and a certification system for organic products that cross provincial and national borders, but does not cover claims within provinces.

Although organic claims enforcement is within the official purview of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), complaints regarding fraudulent or misleading use of the word, “organic,” are not likely to be enforced unless the products in question carry the Canada Organic Logo or are traded across provincial borders.

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