Interpretation Corner

From time to time I receive questions from organic producers regarding production requirements that are not clearly defined under the Canada Organic Standard. In an ongoing effort to better understand the application of the organic standard, questions posed to the Organic Standards Interpretation Committee (SIC) and their accepted answers will be included in this section of the newsletter. The Organic SIC is an advisory body set up by the Canadian Organic Office (COO) with representatives from the organic sector in Canada. A full listing of Q & A's posed to the SIC are available on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA) website ( and on the Organic Federation of Canada's (OFA) website (
Please note that some certification bodies may have additional requirements to the Canada Organic Standard and you should always contact your certification body for clarification.

Specific Production Requirements
Section 7.1: Apiculture
Question: 7.1.9 states that apiaries must be separated by a buffer zone of 3000 meters from sources or zones where prohibited substances are present. Is there a transition time required between the last use of a prohibited substance in the buffer zone and the production of organic honey?
Answer: There is no transition period required for the 3000 meter buffer zone. No prohibited substances can be present when bees are feeding.

(Reference - Section 7.1.9 states: Apiaries shall be separated by a buffer zone of 3000 m where sources or zones of substances prohibited by par. 1.4.1, or flower-bearing agricultural crops treated with substances not listed in CAN/CGSB-32.311, Organic Production Systems - Permitted Substances Lists (i.e. genetic engineering or environmental contaminants), are present.)

Crop Production
Section 5.1 Land Requirements for Organic Crop Production
Question: Is it parallel production if the same seedling type production is separated by time?
Answer: The growing of visually indistinguishable crops (organic and non-organic) non simultaneously does not constitute parallel production. This rule applies equally to all field crops and greenhouse production, including seedlings.

(Reference - Section 5.1.2 states: The enterprise shall aim at a complete transition of its production. During the transition period, the enterprise can maintain, in addition to the production in transition, a non-organic system of production (split operation) that shall be entirely separate and identified separately, pending its incorporation into the overall transition process. The enterprise can be converted one unit at a time, and each converted unit shall respect the requirements of this standard. The exception to this norm, parallel production, is only allowed in the following cases: perennial crops (already planted), agricultural research facilities, production of seed, vegetative propagating materials and transplants.

The following special conditions shall be observed for parallel production;

  • The operator shall clearly demonstrate that the identity of the crops so produced can be maintained during their production, harvesting, storage, processing, packaging and marketing.
  • The operator shall maintain verifiable, accurate records of both non-organic and organic produce and product storage, transportation, processing and marketing.

Note: Parallel production crops both organic and non-organic must be inspected just prior to harvest and an audit of all parallel production crops must occur after harvest.

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