Karma carries food items with a variety of labels. But what do those certifications mean, and who sets the standards? The Food Issues Committee has done the research—so let’s set the record straight on some of these labels.

Products that are grown in China and carry an organic logo must meet Canadian Organic Standards (COS). The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is responsible for monitoring and regulating organic products within Canada. The CFIA has accredited a list of Canadian and international organic-certification organizations to assess agricultural products being sold in Canada. All accredited organizations must act in accordance with the requirements of the Canadian Organic Regime1.

Biodynamic farming originated in Germany in the 1920s as one of the first organic agriculture movements. Biodynamic farmers use holistic management practices including crop diversification, the avoidance of chemical soil treatments, decentralized production and distribution, and the consideration of celestial and terrestrial influences on biological organisms. The Demeter Association—which regulates biodynamic certification worldwide through national affiliates including Demeter Canada—recommends that at least 10 per cent of the total farm acreage be set aside as a biodiversity preserve, which may include but is not limited to forests, wetlands, riparian corridors, and intentionally planted insectaries. Farmers are not allowed to plant annual crops in the same field for more than two years in succession. Bare tillage year round is also prohibited.


“SPCA Certified” is a farm certification and food labelling program that conforms to the British Columbia SPCA standard of farm animal welfare. Certification involves annual inspections as well as random audits conducted by third-party professional validators. An independent expert review panel reviews all documents pertaining to inspections and determines farm certification status. SPCA standards are based on the internationally recognized “five freedoms for animal welfare”:

  • freedom from hunger and thirst
  • freedom from discomfort (including shelter and a comfortable resting area)
  • freedom from pain, injury, or disease
  • freedom to express normal behaviour (providing sufficient space and company of the animal’s own kind)
  • freedom from fear and distress

If you have any further questions, just ask Karma’s fabulous staff. Or feel free to e-mail the Food Issues Committee at foodissues@karmacoop.org.

1. http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/organic-products/certification-and-verification/certification-bodies/eng/1327860541218/1327860730201

by Cindy Willems, Katie Corker, and Suzanne Methot (on behalf of the Food Issues Committee)

Read more articles from the spring 2017 issue of Karma’s printed newsletter, The Chronicle.