Organic food refers to the way agricultural products—food are grown and processed. Organic food production is based on a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers. Organic foods are minimally processed without artificial ingredients, preservatives, or irradiation to maintain the integrity of the food.
Is there an official definition of “organic”?
The following excerpt is from the definition of “organic” that the National Organic Standards Board adopted in April 1995: “Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.”
What does “Certified Organic” mean?
“Certified Organic” means the item has been grown according to strict uniform standards that are verified by independent state or by third-party private organizations. Certification includes inspections of farm fields and processing facilities, detailed record keeping, and periodic testing of soil and water to ensure that growers and handlers are meeting the standards which have been set.
Can any type of agricultural product become certified organic?
Yes, any agricultural product that meets third-party or state certification requirements may be considered organic. Organic foods are becoming available in an impressive variety, including pasta, prepared sauces, frozen juices, frozen meals, milk, ice cream and frozen novelties, cereals, meat, poultry, breads, soups, chocolate, cookies, beer, wine, vodka and more. These foods, in order to be certified organic, have all been grown and processed according to organic standards and must maintain a high level of quality.
Who regulates the certified organic claims?
The federal government set standards for the production, processing and certification of organic food in the Organic Food Production Act of 1990 (OFPA). The National Organic Standards Board was then established to develop guidelines and procedures to regulate all organic crops. The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) during December 2000 unveiled detailed regulations to implement OFPA. These took effect on April 21, 2001, with an 18-month implementation period ending October 2002. At that time, any food labeled organic must meet these national organic standards. USDA’s National Organic Program oversees the program.
Do organic farmers ever use pesticides?
Prevention is the organic farmer’s primary strategy for disease, weed, and insect control. By building healthy soils, organic farmers find that healthy plants are better able to resist disease and insects. Organic producers often select species that are well adapted for the climate and therefore resist disease and pests. When pest populations get out of balance, growers will try various options like insect predators, mating disruption, traps, and barriers. If these fail, permission may be granted by the certifier to apply botanical or other nonpersistent pest controls under restricted conditions. Botanicals are derived from plants and are broken down quickly by oxygen and sunlight.
Is organic food better for you?
There is mounting evidence at this time to suggest that organically produced foods may be more nutritious. Furthermore, organic foods and fiber are spared the application of toxic and persistent insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers. Many EPA-approved pesticides were registered long before extensive research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases. In the long run, organic farming techniques provide a safer, more sustainable environment for everyone.
Why does organic food sometimes cost more?
Prices for organic foods reflect many of the same costs as conventional items in terms of growing, harvesting, transportation and storage. Organically produced foods must meet stricter regulations governing all of these steps, so the process is often more labor and management intensive, and farming tends to be on a smaller scale. There is also mounting evidence that if all the indirect costs of conventional food production and cleanup of polluted water, replacement of eroded soils, costs of health care for farmers and their workers were factored into the price of food, organic foods would cost the same or, more likely, be cheaper.
Isn’t organic food just a fad?
U. S. sales of organic food and beverages have grown from $1 billion in 1990 to an estimated $20 billion in 2007. The market for these goods is projected to nearly $23.6 billion in 2008, and keep growing an average of 18% each year from 2007-2010. The adoption of national standards for certification is expected to open up new markets for U. S. organic producers. Internationally, organic sales continue to grow as well.
© 2009, Organic Trade Association.