Limits remain under organic equivalency deal

The organic equivalency agreement signed this week between Canada and the U.S. will not end a number of restrictions on imports of U.S. organic goods that don’t follow Canada’s standards, and vice versa.

According to a release Friday from the Canadian wing of the Organic Trade Association, the deal requires Canada not to allow any organic dairy products to be sold to the U.S. market if antibiotics were used in their production.

As well, the U.S. will now require data from organic livestock producers in the U.S. to monitor whether they meet Canadian livestock density rates under Canada’s organic standards, the OTA said.

The U.S. will also respect Canada’s prohibition on hydroponic growing of organic products, and any such products will not be allowed to be sold as organic in Canada, the OTA noted.

Furthermore, products coming into Canada from the U.S. will not be allowed to come into Canada if they’ve been grown using sodium (“Chilean”) nitrate, a natural soluble nitrogen source allowed for restricted use under the National Organic Program of the U.S.

“I think it’s clear that Canada’s publicly-developed organic standards have been respected and adhered to by the U.S. in this agreement… and the highly integrated North American market will only continue to grow as a result of this bold move by our two governments,” said Matthew Holmes, managing director for the OTA in Canada, in the release Friday.

The North American organic market saw “continued growth” last year, OTA said, citing a 17 per cent increase in 2008 over 2007 figures. U.S. organic sales are valued at more than US$24 billion per year, while the Canadian market is valued at about C$2 billion per year.

Generally, the equivalency agreement signed Wednesday by U.S. Department of Agriculture and Canadian Food Inspection Agency officials in Chicago will allow farmers in each country to certify to their domestic organic standards, but they will be able to sell their products as organic in both markets.

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