Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you this morning. My name is Tia Loftsgard, and I am the Executive Director of the Canada Organic Trade Association.
Our membership is national and consists of organic stakeholders from across the value chain, representing everyone from farmers to retailers selling organic products, as well the provincial farmer associations. In addition to the regulatory and trade development work that we do, we also lead on consumer education campaigns about organics at the national level and media relations and research for the organic sector.
We felt it was super important for us to inform the committee today about the issue of public trust as it relates to the organic sector, as the degree of public trust in the Canada organic brand is regarded worldwide with respect and is trusted by Canadians for what it delivers.
The Canada organic logo is owned by the Canadian government, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and was launched in 2009 when the Canada organic regime came into force as part of the Canada Agricultural Products Act. The logo appears on certified organic products originating from Canada and abroad that comply with the Canadian organic standards or equivalent, as recognized through equivalency arrangements.
The organic logo symbolizes a system of strict rules that must be followed and verified by third parties, designated and overseen by the CFIA. lt symbolizes a process that's overseen closely by the federal government, and which is enforced under the banner of a government-owned brand and standard.
We believe it is through this system of checks and balances, in which third party certification is obtained and regulated under the auspices of CFIA, that the organic sector has been able to achieve such a high level of public trust. Adherence to internationally respected systems such as Codex Alimentarius, 1S017065 and 1S017011 are all built into the Canada organic regime.
When Canadians see the Canada organic logo, they associate it with traceability; clear standards of production; animal welfare and a clean ingredient list as preservatives, hormones, synthetic pesticides and GMOs are not permitted in organic. As previously mentioned, the Canada organic logo was only Iaunched in 2009 by the Canadian government and already we have a familiarity level of the logo at 66% of Canadians, and 48% of Canadians trust the logo to deliver on what it represents. This is the result of Ipsos' polling conducted in 2017 and highlights the trajectory of growing public trust in organic, as trust grew nine points in only one year.
According to a recent study commissioned by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity, which analyzed the social media posts of millions of Canadians, 92% of Canadians support organic farming. This was found to be consistent across all age groups. The same study found that half of Canadians oppose the use of glyphosate and 60% believe that GMOs in food are bad.
From our perspective, the most beneficial aspect of organics in garnering public trust and support is the issue of transparency and traceability. The organic label comes backed with a fully transparent system of production behind it, and clear regulations and labelling that ensure that this system of production is verified through strict government oversight, which builds consumer confidence.
Ultimately, this is translating to sales as now two-thirds of Canadians are purchasing organic products weekly, regardless of their income bracket and regardless of the province they live in. The Canadian organic market is now the sixth largest organic market in the world, and in 2017, it was valued at $5.4 billion in sales. The demand for organic continues to grow not only in sales, but also in farmers converting to organic across this country; 3.2 million acres were farmed organically In 2017. This number only includes those that are organically certified.
While the total amount of conventionally farmed acres declined by 1% in 2017, organic farms grew in Canada by 4%. Based on 2017 statistics, there are now 6,365 organic businesses in Canada, with 4,800 of them being organic farmers—this was a 13% increase over the prior year—and the remaining 1,865 are organic food processors. We gained 100 in one year. Canada cannot keep up with the demand for organic products for export or domestic markets, indicating a huge opportunity for Canadian businesses to start to meet consumer demands in a sector that has already cultivated the public trust of Canadians and our export markets.
lt's important to consider the changing views of consumers toward Canada's food system and respecting their demand for products that are more sustainable, transparent and backed by strong standards that they can get behind. According to a 2018 study by Technomic, 41% of Canadians who buy organic breads, grains or cereals do so to reduce exposure to pesticide residues in their diet, and 40% purchase these organic products to avoid GMO food.
Forty-two per cent of Canadians who buy organic meat do so to avoid the routine use of antibiotics or hormones in livestock, and 23% of these buy products to guarantee livestock animals have access to the outdoors when possible.
The rapid speed at which this organic sector is growing is in response to the growing demand for food deemed by consumers to be healthy for themselves and the environment and which aligns with their values.
We hope this study by the committee will lead to a reflection on the part of industry and government about the elements needed to cultivate public trust and recognize new consumer demands and preferences. Public trust really can only be gained through openness, transparency and robust science based on independent research.
Thank you very much.