A private member’s bill that would level the playing field for organic farms and businesses in Ontario passed second reading today, and took one step closer to becoming law.
The bill, which passed first reading on Nov. 12th, was tabled by Jim McDonell, MPP for Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry (PC).
“Many Ontarians choose to pay a premium for organic food,” says MPP McDonell. “Should this Bill pass, it will provide consumer confidence in quality products for the continued success of the organic food industry.”
Currently, the Canadian Organic Regime is only enforced within the province for products that carry the Canada Organic Logo. Products labeled “organic” that do not leave Ontario are not subject to enforcement. The proposed legislation would close this gap, reducing consumer confusion around what “organic” really means.
“This bill will bring Ontario into harmony with other provinces and ensure all organic businesses are meeting the same federal requirements,” says Organic Council of Ontario (OCO) President Rob Wallbridge. “There are also positive implications for trade: with the necessary certification in place, businesses are free to expand into new markets, including the US.”
Ontario is one of only four provinces that does not have provincial organic legislation, but houses the country’s largest organic market, with over $1.6 billion in sales.
The bill has received widespread support from farmers. Peggy Baillie, a member of the National Farmers Union - Ontario and co-owner of Three Forks farms explains, “We are constantly faced with customers who inform us of farmers who claim to be organic, but who we know use prohibited substances. This is dishonest and dilutes the label of organic. If this bill were passed, these farmers would not be allowed to make these claims.”
Ontario's general farming organizations are in favour of the bill. “The Ontario Federation of Agriculture supports this Bill because we believe that greater clarity on labelling is in the best interests of Ontario farmers and consumers. Strengthening Ontario's organic brand will give consumers the confidence to buy local organic products,” says Keith Currie, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.
“The CFFO sees certification as necessary to ensuring the integrity of Ontario’s local organic market,” says Clarence Nywening, president of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. “It does justice not only to our customers, but also to all farmers by creating a fair playing field and improving opportunities to access markets beyond the province.”
OCO recently released a report on changes needed to reduce barriers to certification for small-scale producers. More than 80% of those surveyed were in favour of the legislation in principle.
“One of the big advantages of creating organic legislation is that it also allows us to offer more certification solutions,” notes OCO Executive Director Carolyn Young. “It’s a chance for us to actually reduce red tape for small-scale producers, which is something OCO is strongly in favour of.”