Organic Certification in BC

Certification is a process of inspection and verification that is required for making an organic claim. The steps involved in the certification process are detailed below.

  1. Choosing a certification agency
  2. Transitioning to organic production (36 months) for in ground crops.
  3. Developing a certifiable audit trail.
  4. Submitting an application to a certification agency*
  5. Organic Inspection*
  6. Review and certification*

* Steps 4-6 are an annual process

The Certified Organic Associations of British Columbia is designated as the provincial organic program administrator. They oversee eleven certification bodies, a great diversity of agencies for producers to choose from. All of the certification bodies certify to the same standard: CAN/CGSB 32.310 and CAN/CGSB 32.311. Considerations for choosing the right certification body for your needs include:

  1. Market destination. If you plan to ship out of the province you must be certified by an agency that is ISO compliant. Check out the link below for a list of certifying bodies and details about whether they certify for National/International markets or are for products that will be solely marketed in B.C.
  2. Cost
  3. Reputation. Speaking with other organic growers may help you choose the best certification agency for your needs.

Visit the COABC website for information on the different certifying bodies, organic standards, the certification application process, and other frequently asked questions.

  1. Transition is the period of time between the start of organic management and the time a farm is brought into accordance with organic standards. ‘
  2. Thirty-six months of transition is required from the last application of a prohibited substance. 
  3. A soil management plan must be implemented during that time.
  4. The last 12 months of transition must be completed within a certification program. At minimum new applications must be submitted 15 months before a crop can be marketed as organic.  
  5. Enterprises must aim for a complete transition of its production. The enterprise can be converted to organic production one unit at a time. Parallel production (where the products of the organic and non-organic system are indistinguishable) is not allowed.
  1. Review all certification procedures to determine if you meet organic standards and regulatory requirements. 
  2.  Implement record keeping (detailed production, sales and input records) for all pertinent aspects of your operation.
  3. Create an accurate visual record (layouts, maps, flow diagrams).
  4. List all production units, yields, varieties or if processing, current products.
  5. Fill out application, also known as the Organic Farm Plan; attach map, diagram(s), sample record keeping, soil or irrigation water test if required by the Certifier, and where applicable labels. Submit completed affidavit. As well, submit a current water potability test especially if water is used during processing as an ingredient, processing aid or cleaning agent. Keep a copy of your complete application.
  1. The Certification Committee representative will complete a preliminary review of your application.
  2. A 3rd party inspector will be assigned your file and an inspection scheduled. 
  3. The actual inspection may involve 1-5 hours depending on the complexity of the operation. 
  1. The inspector will verify all forms, maps and information supplied.
  2. A visual inspection of the total operation, including your record keeping system, will take place.
  3. An assessment of potential contamination points/risks will be made. 
  4. The inspector will submit a report to the Certification Committee. 
  5. The inspector does not determine status.

The Certification Committee will assess the file and could:

  1. Approve your request for membership.
  2. Assign a status (transitional or certified organic) or,
  3. Approve your request pending implementation of conditions or,
  4. Deny your request based on their Standards.

The certification process is repeated annually. And even if you break the rules accidentally, you may be required to sell the affected product conventionally or even decertified.