What Is The Meaning Of Organic?

Lots of things are labeled organic – foods, drinks, fruits, vegetables, even clothing. It’s a trendy, multi-billion dollar industry that is growing every year. What is organic all about?

Organic isn’t just a word. It’s a movement. Organic processes are better for wildlife, soils, and the environment.

It’s a sustainable process that uses specific techniques that don’t rely on the use of synthetic pesticides and herbicides. This makes organic products safer for us.

Organic foods are a billion dollar global industry and the fastest growing US food sector with roughly a 20% increase every year. Over 73% of all grocery stores carry organic products. At some stores like Whole Foods it is the theme. Worldwide, 1% to 2% of all food sales are organic, even though it costs 45% to 200% more.

The three main things that qualify a product as organic are that the growing process uses less energy and produces less waste, creates a sustainable ecosystem, and uses no synthetic pesticides. Weed management without synthetic herbicides, natural biological pest control, and soil management to ensure nutrient rich soils are all challenges of organic farming. This process is definitely better for the environment and most likely produces foods that are better for you.

Organic farmers and organic gardeners use crop rotation techniques, prevent soil erosion, encourage biodiversity, conserve water, add organic matter to soil, and recycle nutrients. They do not use synthetic pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, food additives, or genetically modified organisms. It’s a process that has not changed much since the 1930s when people became worried about pesticides.

Even though organic trade is regulated internationally. It’s important to know that the word organic means different things in different countries. In the United States, the National Organic Program (NOP) certifies organic farms and gardens that make over $5,000 per year. It takes time to become certified organic and it requires growers to understand the organic process.

Most organic certification is done by USDA approved non-profits, private organizations, or state agencies. Certification depends on production standards, production techniques, storage, processing, packing, and shipping. Even the transportation used to bring organically grown corn to the supermarket must be certified organic for the product to quality. To meet certification criteria, organic farmers must:

  • Avoid synthetic chemicals, genetic modification, irradiation, and use of any sewage sludge.
  • Use land that is free of contamination and has been for a specified number of years
  • Keep detailed records of every aspect of their business
  • Separate organic and non-organic products at all times
  • Be subject to random inspections of location, soil, water, or plants
  • Meet all health code regulations that non-organic producers must meet
  • Write annual plans that include seed sources, field/crop locations, fertilizing, pest activity, harvesting methods, and storage
  • Pay fees of $400 to $2000 per year

If a product isn’t truly organic, it can not be called organic. That would be false advertising. People rely on the organic advertising to ensure quality products. In the United States there are three levels of organic certification. If a product is 100% organic it can be called 100% Organic. If it is 95% or greater, it’s called Organic. If it is 70% to 95% it can be classified as Made with Organic Materials. Anything with less than 70% organic materials doesn’t make the organic cut.

Organic products are here to stay. It’s safer for you and it does wonders for the environment. Organic producers are taking the green industry back to basics. It’s up to you to decide if the price tag meets your budget.

National Organic Program
Organic Trade Association
Organic Gardening Magazine
International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements
Organic Farming Research Foundation
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms

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