(Dec. 8) GREENFIELD, Mass. — The Organic Trade Association is calling on the Canadian organics industry, as well as consumers, to support efforts to create a mandatory requirement for Canadian organic products to meet standards set by the Canadian government.

Such an effort is already under way, said Marie-Claude Thibault, director of health and food safety for the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, Ottawa.

Thibault said efforts are being made to unify Canada’s organic standards and create a program similar to the National Organic Program that was launched in the U.S. in 2002.

“We are trying to harmonize everything and have a system that is credible,” Thibault said. “At the moment audits in Canada are done through third parties that are very independent of each other. It’s all over the place.”

Thibault said the government is consulting with the organics industry to get feedback and find out what the industry and the public want in the form of regulation. A consultative session will take place Jan. 23 at the 2004 Organic Conference at the University of Guelph, Ontario.

Further meetings are planned, but Thibault said it could be at least March before there is a regulatory proposal. And even then the regulation would be published in Canada Gazette for public comment, a process similar to the Federal Register in the U.S. It could be a matter of years before a regulation is finalized.

The current certification process in Canada is voluntary and must be done through an accredited organic certification agency. Thibault said the new regulation will most likely be mandatory.

Katherine DiMatteo, executive director of the Organic Trade Association, said a mandatory requirement would benefit all parties involved.

“Such a regulation will make it possible for Canada to negotiate with other trading partners,” she said. “In addition it will give consumers assurance that any products sold as organic in Canada have complied with mandatory standards.”