OTTAWA -- As U.S. organic-agriculture enthusiasts welcome the long-awaited new standards for their growing industry, the Canadian General Standards Board, based here, is preparing to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the implementation of its own organics rules.
agriculture: protect the environment, minimize soil degradation and erosion, decrease pollution, optimize biological productivity and promote a sound state of health. Both standards prohibit the use of ionizing radiation in the preservation of food; ban the use of genetically engineered or modified organisms; and encourage maximum rotation of crops, among other things.
As a result, several retailers -- such as A&P, Montvale, N.J., and Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif. -- which operate stores on both sides of the border -- should have no problems maintaining their current policies concerning organic foods, said Frank Massong, program officer for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
"Depending on how and when the American standard is implemented, it should be very similar to our [Canada's] standard," said Massong. "Except for some of the certification requirements, which are voluntary right now in Canada."
Massong said that the Canadian government has kept close tabs on the development of the U.S. standard, and believes that cross-border retailers will feel little impact, positive or negative, until the 90-day comment period ends and finalization and implementation take place. Then, both countries will have to review the separate rules to determine how they differ, if at all, on individual points. Similarly, the dynamics of the import/export industry between the neighboring countries will be similarly affected, according to Massong.
Both the Canadian government -- federal and provincial -- and the country's food industry toiled jointly with the Standards Board, working through five drafts before the final version was approved. Essentially addressing the same issues as found in the new American standards, Canada's organics rules have been in place for nearly nine months, since taking effect June 29, 1999. As with the new U.S. standard, the Canadian government notes that "neither this standard, nor foods labeled to identify this standard, represent specific claims to the health, safety, and/or nutrition of such foods" within its document.