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What does organic really mean?

What does organic really mean?

By Lori Mork

All the conversation about natural and organic foods can leave consumers at a loss. Here are some facts from Organic.org, an organic community with a mission to educate people on the benefits of organic agriculture.

Thinkstock

Thinkstock

What does organic mean?
In simple terms, organic produce is grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms or ionizing radiation. Animals raised for meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products have never been given antibiotics or growth hormones.

How can I tell if something is organic?
There are three categories of labeling certified by the USDA:
• 100 percent organic means it is made with 100 percent organic ingredients.
• Organic means a product is made with at least 95 percent organic ingredients.
• Made with organic ingredients means a product is made with a minimum of 70 percent organic ingredients with strict restrictions on the remaining 30 percent, including no genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
If a product has less than 70 percent organic ingredients, it can list those on the side panel of the package but can’t say it’s organic on the front of the package.
What does the USDA Organic seal mean? 
The seal assures consumers that the USDA has certified this operation as having an organic system plan and has records that show the operation has been inspected annually and is in compliance. The operation has also been subjected to random checks.

Does organic cost more?
Many times it doesn’t. Some products like coffee, cereal, bread and hamburger may cost the same or even a little less.
As demand grows, the cost should continue to come down.
Here are some facts to consider when the cost is higher: 
Organic farmers don’t receive federal subsidies so the price of organic food reflects the true cost of growing.
Organic farming is more labor and management intensive.
Organic farms are usually smaller than conventional farms and so they don’t realize the benefit that larger operations see.

Is organic food more nutritious than conventional food?
At this time, there is no definitive research that makes this claim. It is extremely difficult to conduct studies that would control the many variables that might affect nutrients, such as seeds, soil type, climate, postharvest handling, and crop variety.

Does organic food taste better?
Much of it is an individual matter, although many consumers and gourmet chefs feel that organic foods taste better.

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.

Facts found at www.organic.org

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