What Is Organic?
At its core, organic food is food that has been grown and produced as close as possible to the way that nature intended. Organic produce is grown without the aid of pesticides, herbicides, or synthetic fertilizers. Because organic livestock does not receive routine doses of antibiotics, the animals have living conditions that promote good health, including adequate space, fresh air, fresh water, and healthy feed.
Furthermore, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), synthetic hormones, and irradiation are not allowed in organic agricultural products. Not only is organic food grown in accordance with organic practices, but the organic commitment also continues all the way from field to store.
Since 2002, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has overseen the national organic program in the United States. The USDA has instituted an extensive set of rules that dictate what is allowable and what is prohibited in organic agricultural products for food and nonfood use. The USDA also oversees third-party certifiers, which ensure that the rules are followed by organic producers.
The USDA does not require third-party certification of organic products from farmers or distributors who sell less than $5,000 of goods per year. However, if these exempt producers attempt to misuse the “organic” label, and are caught, they are subject to a significant penalty.
There are three levels to the USDA organic labeling program.
Products labeled “100 Percent Organic” are made entirely from organic ingredients or components.
Products that are made up of at least 95 percent organic ingredients or components, and have remaining ingredients that are approved for use in organic products, can display the “USDA Organic” seal.
Products that are made up of at least 70 percent organic ingredients or components can list “organic” before those ingredients on their ingredient lists.