Simply stated, organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones.
The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) defines organic as follows:
Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled "organic," a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.
What is organic farming and food?
Organic farming is a holistic approach to food production, making use of crop rotation, environmental management and good animal husbandry to control pests and diseases. Processed organic foods use ingredients that were produced organically and organic ingredients must make up at least 95% of the food. There are only a limited number of additives used in organic food production.
Some key aspects of organic farming and food are:
- 1. Restricted use of artificial fertilisers or pesticides
- 2. Emphasis on animal welfare, and prevention of ill health, including stocking densities, free range, choice of suitable breeds
- 3. Use of conventional veterinary medicines is focussed on treating sick animals
- 4. Emphasis on soil health and maintaining this through application of manure, compost and crop rotation
- 5. Processors of organic foods have a restricted set of additives to use no use of GMOs or their products allowed
How is organic food production regulated?
All food sold as 'organic' must be produced according to European laws on organic production in different countries.
These laws require food sold as 'organic' to come from growers, processors and importers who are registered and approved by organic certification bodies, which are in turn registered by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) or a similar control body elsewhere in the world.
Organic certification bodies must appoint inspectors who are, for example, expected to visit farms and check that no fertilisers or pesticides have been used that are not approved for organic production, and that land has been farmed organically for the conversion period (normally two years) before food is sold as 'organic'.
How should organic food be labelled?
Labels on food sold as 'organic' must indicate the organic certification body that the processor or packer is registered with. The labels must, at the minimum, include a code number that denotes the approved certification body. The name or trademark (logo) of the certification body may also, but does not have to be, shown on the label.
It is not always possible to make products entirely from organic ingredients, since not all ingredients are available in organic form. Manufacturers of organic food are permitted to use specific non-organic ingredients provided that organic ingredients make up at least 95% of the food.
What does the USDA Organic seal mean?
The USDA Organic seal assures consumers of the quality and integrity of organic products. Organic-certified operations must have an organic system plan and records that verify compliance with that plan. Operators are inspected annually in addition there are random checks to assure standards are being met.
How does a farmer go about converting land to organic status?
Converting land to organic status is a three-year process. There is a two-year conversion process consisting of building up the fertility of the land. Produce grown in the first year cannot be stated as organic. In the second year produce may be stated as “In Conversion”. It is not until the third year that produce may be stated as fully organic. Soil and natural fertility building are important parts of organic farming.
Why does organic cost more?
The truth of the matter is that organic food doesn’t always cost more. Some items, such as coffee, cereal, bread, and even hamburger, may cost the same or even less than their conventional counterparts. And, as the demand for organics continues to grow, the cost will continue to come down. When the cost is higher, consider these facts: Organic farmers don’t receive federal subsidies like conventional farmers do. Therefore, the price of organic food reflects the true cost of growing.
The price of conventional food does not reflect the cost of environmental cleanups that we pay for through our tax to the Governments.Organic farming is more labor and management intensive.Organic farms are usually smaller than conventional farms and so do not benefit from the economies of scale that larger growers get.
Does organic food taste better?
Taste is definitely an individual matter, but hundreds of gourmet chefs across the nation are choosing organic food to prepare because they believe it has superior taste and quality.
An increasing number of consumers are also of the opinion that organic food tastes better. Because organic food is grown in well-balanced soil, it makes sense that these healthy plants have a great taste.
What Is the Difference Between Natural Products & Organic Products?
Organic certification ensures that the product met the USDA standard under the National Organic Program, which began in 2002 (see References 2). The organic label means that the product contains at least 95 percent organically produced and processed ingredients. You might also see a label with a percentage indicating how much of the product qualifies as organic. Any product containing less than 70 percent organic ingredients cannot use the organic label. These products can only list individual ingredients as organic. Organic products must also indicate the certification agency and indicate each organic ingredient on the label.
The natural label has become ubiquitous. The government does not regulate the use of the word natural on products, except for poultry and other meats. Natural meat and poultry cannot contain artificial flavors, colors, preservatives or sweeteners, and processing kept to a minimum. A label of natural on meat products must explain how the product classifies as natural. A label of natural does not indicate anything about the raising, feeding or care of the animals. On other products, the natural label ideally means minimal processing and no artificial additives. The lack of regulation, however, makes it difficult for consumers to determine if this is the case.
Just about any food can be labeled as "natural," but truly organic food carries a special label - like India NPOP Certification OR the USDA seal.