Local Agriculture

Organic: from niche to mainstream

by Jenny Kendrick, Statistics Canada

It seems not a day goes by that you don’t hear or see the term organic used to market food, cosmetics or clothing. It has become a catch-all term synonymous with healthier, better products. Because of consumer demand and increasing visibility, many organic food products in Canada are being showcased in grocery stores, natural food stores, farmers’ markets and in community-supported agriculture projects. For consumers, the challenge is to know what “organic” really means. Is it the same as “certified organic?”

What is “organic” agriculture all about? The organic agriculture movement stemmed from a move by some producers and consumers to seek out what they interpreted as more environmentally friendly and sustainable farming and food production practices. In general, organic agriculture seeks to avoid the use of chemical fertilizers, synthetic pesticides, synthetic veterinary drugs, genetically modified organisms, and certain food processing and preservation substances. It needs to be noted that many of these practices and products are now regulated for both conventional and organic operations – such as how and when livestock can or must be treated with veterinary drugs and the period after treatment that their products must remain out of the market, the use of fertilizer and manure, the approval of pest control products and the licensing of applicators as well as the approval of food ingredients and processing standards. More