Why OMRI went to Canada

By Amy Bradsher

Around the world, organic producers, handlers and certifiers are working together to ensure that conscientious consumers have the option of purchasing certified organic products. New equivalency agreements put in place over the past five years mean that organic food produced and certified in Europe, Canada, and now Japan under their organic standards can also be sold as organic in the U.S. For each situation there are a few points of variation, which the certifiers routinely verify when they authorize a product for export. However, the equivalencies do little to alleviate the common difficulty of identifying inputs appropriate for each use and certification scheme. Compliance points and verification processes differ for each standard, so launching OMRI review to Canadian organic standards last year meant setting up a whole new program.

When certifiers and members of the Canadian organic community stopped asking and started demanding that OMRI provide service for Canada, it was clear that OMRI’s service could fill a need, and that the need was significant. Certifiers rely on OMRI and many have it written into their policies that they accept OMRI decisions. Although the differences between the Canadian organic standards and the USDA organic standards are not huge, they are big enough to create several discrepancies. (See the OMRI NOP / COR Comparison Chart for a complete overview.) For certifiers working in Canada, conducting input verification historically meant that they had to start from scratch to determine compliance for each input product, even if the product was OMRI Listed®.

Now OMRI is building a tool for certifiers and organic producers in Canada to help the certification process and ensure organic integrity, starting at the beginning with what goes into the soil. The OMRI Canada Products List© is just getting started with a few dozen products (compared to more than 3,000 products on the OMRI Products List© for production in the U.S.). Suppliers with OMRI Listed products for the U.S. market, along with companies throughout Canada who are new to OMRI, are patiently submitting information about each individual product for OMRI review. Their commitment to organics is considerable, given that each application requires time, money and resources to continuously provide verification and answer questions throughout the evaluation process. But the outcome is significant, and input suppliers see the value in OMRI listing.

Input verification isn’t just a service. Materials review can also play a role in the growth and evolution of organics on a local and international scale. By having products verified in advance, input suppliers streamline the everyday process for certifiers and producers, effectively providing the fuel for the fast growing organic movement. The verification process also educates suppliers about what’s compliant, and OMRI keeps client companies updated about upcoming changes. This educational work stimulates innovation and provides companies with the tools they need to solve problems for the wider organic industry.

A lot of work went into launching the OMRI Canada program, including countless meetings, intensive training, and the whole process of learning the regulations and structure in a different country. But it’s been worth it. We have truly enjoyed working with the Canadian organic community, and the response to our public launch was extremely positive. It is our hope that having free access to a reliable public list will help to grow the industry in Canada in the way we have seen it happen for the U.S.  It may take some time to reach 3,000 products in Canada, but we’re ready to help one product at a time.

Amy Bradsher is Marketing Director at the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI). Search the OMRI Listed products at www.omri.org.

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