Common organic certification terms and processes explained.

Adding products/parcels/activities to my certificate

It is possible to make changes to your organic production plan during the year, after your certificate has been issued. The impact of this change will be evaluated and ECOCERT CANADA will perform the necessary verifications according to the situation to update your certification file.

For example, if you add a parcel of land, you must complete the "Changes to production" form, provide an updated site map, and fill-out a 36 months Declaration that has to be signed by the previous user/owner. To add a new product to certify or if you make changes to your processing activities, you must complete the "Changes to processing plan" form.

All forms related to changes to your production plan during the year are available on our website, in the menu "Our activities", under the "Documents and Forms" section.

Buffer Zones

A buffer zone is intended to diminish the risk of contamination of organic products from neighbouring operations. It should be at least 8 meters wide (more if there is a high risk of contamination). A road, strip of forest or other natural obstacles can be considered as buffer zones.

A hedgerow or windbreak can eventually replace the 8 meter buffer zone after a few years of growth. The inspector will evaluate potential risks and will be able to confirm whether a hedgerow is an adequate substitute for a buffer zone.


Organic certification is based on traceability; a verification of production methods according to organic standards all along the food chain. Products are certified and appear on the organic certificate following a voluntary inspection. However, the farm as an entity cannot be certified. The information required for the organic certification of agricultural products are the field history, inputs and production methods used, and the tracking of sales. The certification of processed products involves the verification of preparation methods, the percentage of organic ingredients in each recipe, labelling, and sales tracking.

Equivalency agreement between Canada and USA (COS/NOP)

Since June 17 2009, there has been an equivalency agreement concerning the Canadian and US organic regulations. Products certified according to the Canadian standards can be sold across the border in the US and use the USDA ORGANIC logo on their packaging as long as the verification of specific criteria is assured.

If you or your buyer wish to sell Canadian products in other countries besides the US, we suggest that you contact your importers to confirm whether NOP certification is necessary or not. NOP certification involves additional costs and restrictions.

Input verification

Companies that manufacture inputs can submit their products for verification of ingredients in order to obtain a confirmation of compliance. When all input ingredients are present on the permitted-substances lists in organic agriculture, a compliance report is issued. This report confirms that the input can be used by organic producers.


Direct marketing to consumers such as CSA baskets or farmers’ markets does not require individual labelling of fruits and vegetables. However packaged fruits and vegetables sold at retail or processed products with more than 95 % organic ingredients must be labelled according to the Québec and/or Canadian standards and include:

a.    The term “organic”
b.    The company’s name
c.    The reference “Certified by Ecocert Canada”
d.    The lot number for processed products

The use of logos (Ecocert, Québec, Canada…) is not obligatory. These logos are available upon request following the issuance of the certificate.

When a processed product contains between 70-95% organic ingredients the label must state “Contains x% organic ingredients” on the main or secondary panel of the package.

When a processed product contains less than 70% organic ingredients it is possible to list the organic ingredients in the list of ingredients. Verification by a certification body is not compulsory.

Ecocert Labelling Guide

Organic products list

In Quebec the CARTV (Conseil des appellations réservées et termes valorisants) provides a searchable electronic directory for certified organic products available at

These are other sites that provide organic product and producer databases :
•    Organic Trade Association
•    Canadian Organic Growers 

Permitted Substances List

It is prohibited to use any synthetic substances or Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO).

All ingredients must be crosschecked with the list of permitted substances.
To make sure that a product can be used send us the technical data sheet for approval.


All farms requesting certification for the first time or who have stopped certification for more than one year are subject to a year of monitoring before certification can be granted.

Pre-certification is a process that is applied to the whole farm enterprise and not parcel by parcel. This step towards certification is required by the Canadian Organic Regulations and the Québec Organic Standards.

During pre-certification the same forms must be submitted and an inspection completed. This visit includes the verification of accounting documents from previous years. The farm business is not authorized to commercialize its production by including its pre-certification status on labels or marketing materials.

During inspection

The inspector will observe the whole company’s operations as well as all registries and records to verify that the organic standards are well respected.
If the inspector notes any noncompliance he or she will inform you verbally and in writing in the inspector’s report.

When noncompliances are observed during the pre-certification inspection, a deadline for conformity will be proposed.

If such nonconformities cannot be corrected (ie : application of non-permitted substances), the transition period will be extended.



The transition period from conventional farming to organic certification for crops is a minimum of 36 months. During the first 24 months one must follow organic production methods according to the standards and maintain records of all farm activities. The last 12 months of transition correspond to the pre-certification year and it is during this time that annual inspections begin.

If a farm is able to prove that it has not used any non-permitted substances or inputs for more than 2 years it can apply directly for pre-certification.

Processors, Packers, Distributors, Brokers, Retailers

This certification is a validation of organic preparation methods and processes as given in the organic standards. The facilities, recipes, production methods, records and organic certificates of each ingredient are verified during a scheduled inspection once every 12 months.


Certain work and processes can be sub-contracted to a third party within the framework of your organic certification. A subcontractor contract must be signed by you and your subcontractor. Subcontractors must also be inspected and the costs associated with this inspection will be divided among the companies/operations using the same subcontractor.

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