Organic Standards Interpretation Committee
The Canadian Organic Office (COO), collaborating with representatives of the organic sector, has created an advisory body; the Standards Interpretation Committee (SIC), to assist in the interpretation of the Canadian Organic Standard (CAN/CGSB 32.310 and CAN/CGSB 32.311). Early in the process of writing the rules which govern organic production in Canada, the stakeholders recognized the need for authoritative answers to questions about what the standard means. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, charged with enforcement of the rules, have determined that these questions cannot be adequately addressed without the guidance of an advisory body which brings together the collective knowledge of the industry, through democratically chosen representatives.
Design of the Standards Interpretation Committee
The design of the SIC, the appointment of members and its ongoing operation has been the result of cooperation between the Canadian Organic Office and its industry counterpart, the Organic Federation of Canada (OFC). OFC is the national organization which represents the organic sector to the federal Government on matters of regulation of the industry. OFC has umbrella groups in each of the 10 provinces, and Yukon, who strive to include all levels of the organic value chain within their activities. A representative of each of these groups and an ex-officio ministry of Agriculture official from each province make up the OFC Board, along with one person appointed by the Organic Trade Association (OTA Canada). The OFC is officially responsible for naming the members of the SIC and for ensuring that the seven people named have collective expertise in the following designated areas;
- Crop producers;
- Livestock Producers;
- Processors (food manufacturers);
- Importers, Distributors and Retailers;
- Certification Bodies;
- CB Inspectors; and
Function of the Standards Interpretation Committee
Questions about the meaning of a particular point in the Canadian Organic Standard may originate from any source and are directed to the Canadian Organic Office. Those questions that require the input of the SIC are compiled and sent to the Committee Members for comment. Periodically the Committee convenes and having had the advantage of considering all the comments that have been put forward, attempts to reach consensus which resolves the issue. This decision is delivered to the Canada Organic Office as a proposed interpretation. The Canada Organic Office then posts the proposal(s) for a period of 60 days and unless there is strong, irresolvable opposition voiced by the sector the interpretation will become an official part of The Interpretive Guide to The Canadian Organic Standard.
The SIC has no authority to revise the Canadian Organic Standard. If faced with a question that highlights an instance of ambiguity or apparent contradiction in the wording of the Standard, the SIC may propose a revision which would involve the Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) Technical Committee for Organic Agriculture. This is the group legally responsible for the maintenance of the Standard. The initial 7 members of the SIC were chosen from the CGSB Technical Committee for Organic Agriculture to ensure continuity between the original writing of the rules, their interpretation and ongoing revision. The existence of the SIC, with the ability to resolve varying interpretations of the Standard in a timely fashion, gives the Canadian Organic Regulatory System a unique ability to achieve uniform application of the rules to all operators through various certifying bodies.
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