Organic: What it Really Means

I had a follower recently say that they were hesitant to eat Organic food (over conventional), because of the "truth" behind calling themselves Organic and asked me to assist.

Well, I'm here to help set the record straight.

The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) strictly regulates regulates the standards for any farm, wild crop harvesting, or handling operation that wants to sell an agricultural product as organically produced. It is actually quite difficult and tedious to bear the name "organic."

Let's go through a couple of things:

What is ORGANIC?

Organic production is a system that is managed in accordance with the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990 (PDF) and regulations in Title 7, Part 205 of the Code of Federal Regulations to respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. The National Organic Program (NOP) develops, implements, and administers national production, handling, and labeling standards.

OK - So what does that mean?

It means that the USDA STRICTLY oversees organic farming and scrutinizes its practices constantly. It is actually quite difficult for farmers to achieve the ability to use the USDA Organic label!

Let's talk about Labeling.....

Organic farming cannot use pesticides. In fact, they are limited to SEVEN non-toxic, all-natural pesticides, compared to the 200 chemicals that conventional farmers are allowed to use!

Products labeled as “100 percent organic” must contain (excluding water and salt) only organically produced ingredients and processing aids.

Products labeled “organic” must consist of at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding water and salt). Any remaining product ingredients must consist of nonagricultural substances approved on the National List including specific non-organically produced agricultural products that are not commercially available in organic form. In these cases, the USDA "Organic" Seal may be displayed on the packaging.

Processed products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients can use the phrase “made with organic ingredients” and list up to three of the organic ingredients or food groups on the principal display panel. For example, soup made with at least 70 percent organic ingredients and only organic vegetables may be labeled either “soup made with organic peas, potatoes, and carrots,” or “soup made with organic vegetables.” Processed products labeled “made with organic ingredients” cannot be produced using excluded methods, sewage sludge, or ionizing radiation. The percentage of organic content and the certifying agent seal or mark may be used on the principal display panel. However, the USDA seal cannot be used anywhere on the package.

"Until a few years ago, individuals who were concerned about the state of the environment were considered alarmist. The only people really involved in any kinds of campaigns were environmentalists.....The possibility that we might actually be exhausting its resources was inconceivable then. Now you can't open a newspaper without being made aware of the impact of our lives on the planet....the extinction of species, melting glaciers, freak weather events and on and on.

Indeed, if everyone lived the life of the average person in the US, we would need six planets of identical natural resources in order to sustain us!" (A Slice of Organic Life)

Quite scary, huh?

With cancers (both adult and juvenile), diabetes, ADHD, etc. inundating today's society, don't you think that we should consider that the chemicals used to treat the foods we ingest could be the culprit?

I hope that helped clear up the Organic issue. Note that this is only true for foods - not for makeups, body products, etc. that do not need to hold up to the same strict guidelines.

Please note that I used the references below for my research.


A Slice of Organic Life, Goldsmith & Waters, 2007


Unknown said…
I gave you a blog award today! :)
Amber said…
Thanks so much for this, this is a great post!
Unknown said…
So my retired science teacher dad always gives me trouble about buying organic. He claims there is no FDA approved definition of organic! I can't wait to prove him wrong, in a nice way.. he also supplies all of my fresh produce from his ridiculously huge garden. :) Thanks for the information. Very informative.
Shawn said…
I'm a new follower of Weds Blog hop,
Thanks, Mr. Monkey
Laine said…
Great post! If anyone is interested in further information I'd highly recommend "A Field Guide to Buying Organic".

It goes over all the regulations, and what's important to eat organic, and what you can pass on if you're in a position where eating 100% organic is not possible.
I´m glad I found your blog and this post. I live in Mexico and was very excited when I started seeing a whole bunch of products sold at COSTCO that had the organic certified label. Sadly my smile began to fade when I read the labels and realized that, even thought they had the USDA certified label, some still used MSG (or hid the MSG behind "natural flavourings"; sorry, I may have gotten lost in translation there). So I started to doubt, and my hopes that going to the super market just might become something easy again, fell apart (once again). What´s the use in being organic certified if you still use horrible chemicals like MSG? I began to realize that Organic is now the new way to sell more. Green is in, and I´m totally into this, but so are people who just want to sell more, and may not be too worried about other people in the process. Now I look for certified products AND continue to read the labels. This means LONG trips to the supermarket. Booooo... Greetings from Mexico! Clau

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