My short bio: My short bio:

I am the President of Canadian Organic Growers [], a national Organic Charity specializing in education about organic agriculture and gardening.

I have over 26 years of assurance (verification, certification and standards), extension and consulting experience in and outside the organic sphere. I also work in a collaborative relationship with Dr. Brenda Frick and Gunta Vitins under the banner of Resilient Solutions Consulting – “A diverse, skilled and experienced agri-business consulting team that influences positive change through an innovative and open minded approach.”

I am involved with the Pacific Salmon Foundation’s Salmon Safe agriculture program which is focused on watershed health sufficient for native salmon to spawn and thrive. I am also an active member of CFIA’s Standards Interpretation Committee, and the Preparation Working Group convener for the Canadian General Standards Board organic Technical Committee. In addition to being the President of COG, I am a founding member of the Society for Organic Land Care.

Ask me Anything About Canadian Organics!

My Proof:

Comments: 179 • Responses: 36  • Date: 

slowpoke7t43 karma

What's the point in buying organic food? It seems very expensive and I don't have much of a reason to choose organic food over other kinds.

CanadianOrganic1 karma

Personal choice - the reasons are varied.

Wilreadit33 karma

Is there any evidence to conclude that organics are better than traditionally grown produce?

ecafsub14 karma

None whatsoever.

ripousse0 karma

Well it's better for the soil for one thing. So no, it's not none. Conventional agriculture kills the life in the soil.

lyndy6504 karma

That is quite incorrect, actually. Organic farming requires much more water, fertilizer (whatever form it may be), pesticides (yes they still use various pesticides in "organic" agriculture) and herbicides. These all contribute to a general reduction in soil health.

CanadianOrganic3 karma

Not sure where you are getting your information from, but water - I don't see that, not sure why you would say fertilizer (in any form). And yes some organic systems use pesticides; but these pesticides tend to be soil organisms themselves or mineral based. If you have evidence you can share that supports your statements please share it. Keep it mind it is very easy to skew data to whichever position desired.

factbasedorGTFO4 karma

but these pesticides tend to be soil organisms themselves or mineral based

You'd call pyrethrin, rotenone, and other plant based pesticides soil organisms?

Keep it mind it is very easy to skew data

Aren't you skewing things by claiming natural pesticides or "mineral based" are somehow safer than synthetic choices? Aren't copper based fungicides potentially harmful to to soils at high levels?

I bring that up, because it's easy to argue synthetic fungicides organic rules themselves out of are more effective and less harmful than copper based fungicides.

Asbestos, mercury, and arsenic are minerals, so merely insinuating something mineral based is safer is misleading and an appeal to nature argument. That's the entire basis of the organic concept, an appeal to nature, and nature isn't always nice.

CanadianOrganic3 karma

rotenone is prohibited in the Canadian Organic Standards. pyrethrins are only allowed for facility pest control - direct contact with organic products is prohibited. neither are asbestos, mercury or arsenic allowed. I also believe we would need to have a complete dataset on the use of copper to ascertain the impact - if any. all pesticides are harmful and that is why due diligence on all uses is required. compliance to the standard required an operator to use cultural and mechanical processes first before reaching for into the pesticide toolkit.

factbasedorGTFO2 karma

pyrethrins are only allowed for facility pest control - direct contact with organic products is prohibited

Citation, please. I'll help you out:

Wilreadit-1 karma

And yet, shills blow the trumpet hard enough to obfuscate bigger issues like de forestation and lower productivity and world hunger.

CanadianOrganic-1 karma

I didn't realize organic farming was the cause of deforestation and lower productivity and world hunger. Don't think you have all of the facts.

VoilaVoilaWashington2 karma

I didn't realize organic farming was the cause of deforestation and lower productivity and world hunger.

So is organic farming as productive per acre as the usual stuff?

CanadianOrganic2 karma

Can be - sometimes even higher depending on the crop etc. But overall there are too many variables to say one way or the other consistently.

factbasedorGTFO3 karma

even higher depending on the crop

Citation please.

Most people who understand agriculture don't argue that someone can't achieve the same inputs as conventional, they say it's much harder and resource intensive.

For example: for optimum crop yields, plants need optimum nitrogen levels. In conventional, synthetic sources of nitrogen can be used, but organic limits themselves to manure, compost, or schemes that involve taking land out of production.

Organic limits their weed control measures to ineffective "natural" based herbicides, plowing, flame weeding, or back breaking human labor.

CanadianOrganic1 karma

I don't get your point. Depending on the site, the crop, the variety, the soil management organic production can surpass industry norms. and technically the land is not taken out of production - it is growing a green manure crop that will be turned back into the soil.

factbasedorGTFO2 karma

organic production can surpass industry norms

Now you're changing the way you first worded it.

technically the land is not taken out of production - it is growing a green manure crop that will be turned back into the soil.

Technically it's not producing crop product that's going to be sold to market. In conventional and organic agriculture, fallowed fields can be used for grazing livestock - that's a thing.

CanadianOrganic4 karma

if you have livestock then this would be part of your pasture rotation. Green manures are not mandatory requirement - they are an option. Here is the relevant part of the Canadian Organic Standards 5.4 Soil fertility and crop nutrient management 5.4.1 The main objective of the soil fertility and crop nutrient management program shall be to establish and maintain a fertile soil using practices that maintain or increase soil humus levels, that promote an optimum balance and supply of nutrients, and that stimulate biological activity within the soil. 5.4.2 Where appropriate, the soil fertility and biological activity shall be maintained or increased, through: a) crop rotations that are as varied as possible and include plough-down, legumes, catch crops and deep-rooting plants; b) incorporation of plant and animal matter in compliance with this standard and with Table 4.2 of CAN/CGSB-32.311, including the following: 1) composted animal and plant matter; 2) non-composted plant matter, specifically legumes, plough-down crops or deep-rooting plants within the framework of an appropriate multiyear rotation plan; and 3) unprocessed animal manure, including liquid manure and slurry, subject to the requirements of 5.5.1.

CanadianOrganic2 karma

Organic systems reduce our exposure to pesticides, genetically engineered organisms and dependence on synthetic fertilizers, while improving soil health and ecological health. This is not to say there are not non-organic farmers who are good stewards of the land. There are.

VoilaVoilaWashington3 karma

Organic systems reduce our exposure to pesticides

You mean pesticides you don't like?

genetically engineered organisms

You mean modifications you don't like?

dependence on synthetic fertilizers

You mean fertilizers you don't like?

CanadianOrganic1 karma

This is about personal choice.

Rossism21 karma

What do you spray on the crops?

CanadianOrganic-35 karma

that is way to broad question to answer. most organic operators do not spray anything..

PMmeAcups21 karma

Why is organic food so much lower in quality and higher in price when there is no nutritional difference?

CanadianOrganic-1 karma

That is quite the generalization. Are you sure organic food is always lower in quality and higher in price with no nutritional difference? Please feel free to submit your evidence. Keep in mind there are many factors beyond organic certification that come into play such as climate, soil, post harvest handling, skills etc..

ForWhomTheBoneBones14 karma

Hi Ms. Risen. Thank you for doing this AMA.

What are your thoughts on GMOs, specifically do you see a usefulness for them? Are there any concerns or upaides about GMOs currently being utilized that may not permeate the conversation about them?

CanadianOrganic1 karma

I don't understand your second question, but let's be clear that organic certification prohibits the use of transgenics (genetically engineered organisms) - not GMOs.

CanadianOrganic0 karma

I don't understand your second question - but one thing I can clarify is organic certification prohibits transgenics (genetically engineered organisms).

pro_ag_pro_organic8 karma

Why the continued prohibition on parallel crop production in the Canadian Organic Standard, when no such restriction exists for processors, nor for U.S. crop producers?

jpaillat1 karma

What is the definition of parallel crop production?

CanadianOrganic4 karma

per the definition in the clause 3 of the standard 3.46 parallel production (production parallèle) simultaneous production or preparation of organic and non-organic crops, including transitional crops, livestock and other organic products of the same or similar, visually indistinguishable varieties.

CanadianOrganic0 karma

Wow.. another great and hard question. The Canadian General Standards Board's Organic Technical Committee were divided and therefore parallel prohibition for annual crops remains in place until a more fulsome petition is submitted that is sufficiently convincing and sways the members of the Technical Committee to vote in favour of allowing parallel production.

dlewiscowichan2 karma

How would you interpret the new standards in terms of using black plastic mulch for garlic production--in the ground from roughly October to July where I farm.

CanadianOrganic3 karma

I assume you are asking if garlic would be considered an annual crop vs a perennial crop. In my mind garlic is categorized as a annual crop and therefore impacted by the prohibition imposed on black plastic. Not sure I have answered your question.

VoilaVoilaWashington2 karma

So, bureaucracy?

CanadianOrganic1 karma


AshOrganic5 karma

Why at this time are hydroponics not included in the Canadian Organic Standards?

CanadianOrganic5 karma

As one of the underlying tenets of organic principles is to protect and build soil health and as there is no soil in hydroponic systems it just doesn't meet the bill.

AshOrganic5 karma

So what incentives exist then for hydroponics to go organic? What if the rest of their system meets the standards? Aren't we limiting the growth of our sector by excluding hydroponics?

CanadianOrganic3 karma

A solid logical petition would have to be submitted to the Canadian General Standards Board's Organic Technical Committee - outlining the reasons why the Standards should be broaden to include hydroponics. Each review (2009-2011 and 2013-2014) there has been a request, but the arguments presented have been deemed non-persuasive. In fact, the petitions have not really presented a sound case why the standards should be expanded.

jpaillat1 karma

Is hydroponic production the only agricultural production system that isn't included and regulated by the Canadian Organic Standards? (I understand aquaponics and aquaculture are.) If so, is the soil really the key issue for inclusion?

CanadianOrganic3 karma

Aquaculture and aquaponics are covered in 32.312 and they are their own standard. Currently it is not covered by the regulation, but will be once the new Safe Foods for Canadians Act is released. And you are correct there are other non-soil based systems that are allowed.. such as sprouts, honey, processing, but when it comes to primary plant production - soil is a keystone.

Phyco_Boy4 karma

What's the definition of gmo regarding your certifications?

CanadianOrganic1 karma

from the Canadian Organic Standards

3.27 genetic engineering (génie génétique) refers to techniques by which the genetic material of an organism is changed in a way that does not occur naturally by multiplication and/or natural recombination. Examples of the techniques used in genetic engineering include, but are not limited to: • recombinant DNA (rDNA) techniques that use vector systems; • techniques involving the direct introduction into the organism of hereditary materials prepared outside the organism; • cell fusion (including protoplast fusion) or hybridization techniques that overcome natural physiological, reproductive or recombination barriers, where the donor cells/protoplasts do not fall within the same taxonomic family. Unless the donor/recipient organism is derived from any of the above techniques, examples of techniques not covered by this definition include: • in vitro fertilization; • conjugation, transduction, transformation, or any other natural process; • polyploidy induction; • cell fusion (including protoplast fusion) or hybridization techniques where the donor cells/protoplasts are in the same taxonomic family.

Kooltiga3 karma

Can you explain what type of work Resilient Solutions Consulting does? Do you have plans for the Marijuana boom when it is legalized?

CanadianOrganic3 karma

We are a joint venture group of 3 women with a wide range of organic experiences. Brenda Frick is an agrologist / inspector - specialty in grain; Gunta Vitins is a marketing / business guru; and I am a standards / accreditation geek. Marijuana currently cannot be certified under the Canadian Organic Standards as the current regulation does not extend to non-food, feed or seed products. Once the regulation is expanded then organic marijuana could be certified. Getting the regulation expanded though is s slow process.

Waga12342 karma

Isn't marijuana an ingredient? and therefor food?

CanadianOrganic5 karma

Yeah well - not according to our government. So things may change once the laws around marijuana are clarified.

two_off3 karma

How many different organic labels or certifications are there, and how easy is it to create my own?

CanadianOrganic1 karma

Regards to your first question - I think you must have meant organic logos (not labels) so will answer your question in that manner. There are numerous logos. There are country/union logos for example US, Canada. There are also certification body logos. Produce and multi-ingredient products containing more than 95% organic ingredients can use both. Products containing 70-95% organic ingredients cannot use the country logos. To your second question. Not easy - but there is nothing stopping anyone from forming their own certification body, but there are numerous requirements including accreditation.

HomegrownTomato3 karma

What are the biggest differences between the Canadian Organic regs and say the USDA regs? What labeling changes are made for importing/exporting between the two?

CanadianOrganic1 karma

Read the terms of the US Can Equivalency agreement here

Off the top of my head here are some of the labelling differences/allowances: Organic products from each country can use each other's logos, but the US logo cannot be smaller than any other logos. US labels must have the 'certified organic by' statement right below the identification information. There is a difference in how 70-90% products are identified: US is "made with organic ingredients", Canada requires a percentage statement "x% organic ingredients". All other labeling requirements of the receiving country must be addressed.

fayezer3 karma

Hi, thanks for doing an AMA. My biggest concern is the labelling of non-organic foods and GMOs. But that being said, I wonder what you're also doing to stop non certified organic foods from being advertised as "organic"? There have to be standards set, and every farm on my block says it's organic, but none are certified... this means there are no consistent standards, and people I've talked to who say they run organically still use fungicides and other weird things. Just because a farm doesn't spray plants directly doesn't mean it is organic. How are you preserving the term organic? How are you stopping every joe blow from using the word?

CanadianOrganic6 karma

What province are you in? In provinces where provincial standards don't exist we do sometimes see the word organic applied to products that are not certified. It's a big issue. The Canadian Organic Standards are a national standard - so any product crossing provincial or international borders that is labelled organic must be certified. The provinces of QC, MB, BC, and NB have provincial organic regulations and we would like to see every province with one - that is part of the work we do with the government and in supporting provincial associations in their efforts to establish a provincial regulation.

CanadianOrganic3 karma

You can lodge a complaint with the CFIA if you think a product that is being wrongfully labelled organic.

jpaillat2 karma

Do produce grown organically in a hydroponic system in the USA maintain their organic certification/label when imported to Canada?

CanadianOrganic3 karma

No - USDA organic hydroponic product cannot be labelled as organic in Canada.

AshOrganic1 karma

When will the next standards revisions be? Will they include standards for farm labour?

CanadianOrganic3 karma

Next round if all goes well should be underway probably 2019 -2020

AshOrganic1 karma

How can I submit comments on revisions I would like to see in the standards?

CanadianOrganic2 karma

You must complete a formal petition which outlines the elements needed for the Technical Committee to consider. As we are not in a open review period the template is not readily available, but if you send an email to [email protected] someone there would be sure to get back to you with the right documentation and submission protocol.

dawnbandit1 karma

How does the Canadian certification vary from the USDA organic certification? Is it more or less strict?

CanadianOrganic1 karma

The structures are basically the same. Both sets of standards are based on the IFOAM organic principles and for the most part are the same. The main differences are identified in the equivalency agreement the terms of the US Can Equivalency agreement here There are others mainly in livestock requirements.

FanOfGoodMovies1 karma

How do consumers know something is actually organic, what labeling standards are there?

CanadianOrganic2 karma

look for the certification information. In Canada the organic labelling requirements are outlined in the Organic Products Regulations. The link to the regulations can be found on this page along with other organic labelling information.

jvblum1 karma

I am currently looking into schooling in the horticultural industry (possibly through Olds college in AB). After years of meddling in other industries with just no passion or interest, I feel this industry is something that really excites me.

My career research has not yet been extensive, but I'm wondering what programs you recommend for someone looking into the industry?

As well as I have a fear that many jobs are seasonal. What sort of jobs are out there that I could look further into that would be more permanent?

I appreciate your time, and am thankful for any comments or advice you might have!

CanadianOrganic1 karma

I would suggest follow your heart as that is where your passion is. And if full time horticulture work is the aspiration - then lean towards greenhouse production

brendafrick-2 karma

How can we grow organic acres, for environmental benefit, without jeopardizing organic prices, which keep organic farms sustainable? How can COG help with this compromise?

CanadianOrganic-2 karma

As the demand for organic product seems to be far outstripping demand especially for Canadian products, there remains an opportunity and I don't think we should try to restrict growth as the underlying point of all of this is to improve our environment. If the only motivation is the dollar things are going to go amuck anyways. COG supplies educational tools that can only help people to do better and understand their role in our world.

CanadianOrganic-4 karma

Thank you everyone for your great questions. We plan to hold another AMA in the near future so keep an eye out for that.

Signing out on this end!