CETAB+ | Centre d'expertise et de transfert en agriculture biologique et de proximité


Le Centre d'expertise et de transfert en agriculture biologique et de proximité

Organic farming

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See also Geoffroy Ménard's Powerpoint presentation (in french)

Organic farming is a natural way of producing food that respects the earth and animals, without the use of methods that may cause damage to the environment and human health. It is an integrated system of agricultural production, based on ecological principles, that seeks to respect life and natural cycles. It fosters the biodiversity of the agro-ecosystem and biological activity in soil.

The use of synthetic pesticides, genetically modified organisms, synthetic fertilizers, and animal growth hormones is prohibited in organic agriculture. In addition, the use of antibiotics is restricted. Organic agriculture instead uses a preventive approach, optimizing long-term soil fertility and plant and animal health. The following table compares the methods and techniques of the organic approach with those of the “conventional” approach.


Methods prohibited in organic agriculture
Alternatives methods used
Synthetic pesticides
Mechanical or thermal weed control
Biological pest control
Some natural pesticides, such as plant extracts or microorganisms
Synthetic chemical fertilizers
Sewage sludge
Soil improvement through crop rotation
Natural fertilizers (e.g. manure, rock dust, compost)
Green manure
Genetically modified organisms
Original and heritage seeds
Animal husbandry
Growth hormones
Alternative therapies such as homeopathy and herbalism
Antibiotics as a last resort only
Meat-and-bone meal
Organic feedstuffs
Confinement and high animal density
Sufficient space for well-being
Access to pasture and free ranging
Chemical colourings, artificial flavours, synthetic additives
Natural colourings and flavours
Certain chemical conservation agents
Other conservation methods

Adapted from: Conseil des appellations réservées et des termes valorisants | What is an organic product?

Under the Regulation Respecting Reserved Designations, in order to use the designation “organic,” farms and their produce must show that they meet official standards and be certified by an independent organization.

The general principles of organic production are as follows:

  • Protect the environment, minimize soil degradation and erosion, decrease pollution, optimize biological productivity, and promote a sound state of health.
  • Maintain long-term soil fertility by optimizing conditions for biological activity within the soil.
  • Maintain biological diversity within the system.
  • Recycle materials and resources to the greatest extent possible within the enterprise.
  • Provide attentive care that promotes the health and meets the behavioural needs of livestock.
  • Prepare organic products, emphasizing careful processing, and handling methods in order to maintain the organic integrity and vital qualities of the products at all stages of production.
  • Rely on renewable resources in locally organized agricultural systems.

Source: Canadian General Standards Board, 2009. Organic Agriculture: General Principles and Management Standards.

In Québec, the main actors in organic agriculture include:

  • Le Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation du Québec
    MAPAQ supports the organic sector in a variety of ways as part of its Program to support the development of organic agriculture. A network of MAPAQ advisors, regional organic-agricultural respondents, are present in the field.
  • Le Conseil des appellations réservées et des termes valorisants
    This body has jurisdiction over agricultural and food products carrying a reserved designation that are sold in Québec. It acts on behalf of MAPAQ as the competent authority for the accreditation of certification organizations, advising the Minister on recognition of reserved designations, and monitoring the use of recognized reserved designations.
  • La Filière biologique du Québec
    This organization meets a need for representatives of the organic agricultural products sector to associate in a structure having legal status. La Filière is aimed at setting up collective projects for the purpose of improving the environment and business relationships of enterprises from every link in the organic food chain.
  • La Fédération d'agriculture biologique du Québec
    This organization’s mandate is to represent all organic producers of Québec and advocate in matters that concern them directly. It also aims to obtain recognition for organic agriculture from governments, conventional agricultural producers, consumers and actors that are closely or remotely involved in the organic sector.
  • Le Centre d'expertise et de transfert en agriculture biologique et de proximité
    CETAB+ provides agricultural businesses, individual actors and organizations with information, applied-research, advisory, and technology-transfer services, and with studies and analyses.
  • Organic Federation of Canada
  • Équiterre
    Équiterre is an NGO whose mission is to help build a social movement by encouraging individuals, organizations and governments make ecological and equitable choices, in a spirit of solidarity. Its main involvement in organic agriculture comes through the organization of the community-supported agriculture system and the production of various manuals and analyses.

Environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth and Nature Québec also promote organic agriculture as part of their activities. There are also various producers’ associations such as Canadian Organic Growers.