Aprivate member’s bill was introduced on September 13 by NDP MPP Peter Tabuns and Progressive Conservative MPP Sylvia Jones that would legislate the certification of organic products produced and sold within Ontario. While federal regulations require that organic products be certified, they only apply to those products that cross provincial borders or bear the Canada Organic Logo — not those simply labelled “organic” and sold within the province.

Ontario market over $1.4 billion

Canada is the fifth-largest market for organic products globally. With over $1.4 billion in retail sales of organic product and growing 10 percent annually, Ontario boasts one of the largest organic markets in Canada. Over 50 percent of Ontarians purchase organic products weekly, and many organic shoppers aren’t who you’d expect. According to the Canada Organic Trade Association, 64 percent are “non-caucasian,” 50 percent have annual household incomes below $50,000, and 51 percent live in the suburbs. Because millennials are also organic shoppers, the organic market will continue to grow over the next several decades.

Ontario falling behind on organic production

Yet less than two percent of Ontario agriculture is organic. As the demand for organics increases, so does the amount of organic imports. In Quebec and the U.S., organic production makes up 3.3 percent and four percent of agriculture, respectively. Compared to our neighbours, Ontario is falling behind. Neighbouring governments offer a variety of supports to grow the organic sector. This includes payments to offset the risk and cost of the three-year transition period in which farmers employ organic practices but can’t fetch an organic price.

Lack of provincial regulation a contributing factor

While many honest, hard-working organic farmers don’t certify, the growing market for organic products leaves an opening for the use of misleading or fraudulent organic claims within the market. Without regulation, a lack of trust in the organic brand may erode its value and the sector’s ability to grow.