What Does “Organic” Really Mean:

Organic Agriculture and Production
USDA Organic Produce
The definition of organic, these days, especially as it pertains to agriculture, is murky at best. Marketing dictates that whatever the latest trends, and whatever is selling the best or the fastest means — a term is gonna’ get coined, stickers and ads are gonna’ get made, and products are gonna’ get labeled. But as consumers, what are we supposed to pay attention to? What does organic mean, and who is actually making the rules?

The term “Organic” refers to the the means by which agricultural products are farmed, processed and so on. This starts with the way the items are produced, and goes to how they are processed and then distributed. At the end of the chain, regarding sales of products, consumers should be able to rest assured that when a product says “organic” it actually means something. And the integrity of the organic stamp begins on the farm or the ranch.

According to the Organic Trade Associations’s website, “Setting the stage for U.S. National organic standards, the U.S. Congress adopted the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) in 1990 as part of the 1990 Farm Bill. This action was followed by over a decade of public input and discussion, which resulted in a National Organic Program final rule published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in December 2000 and implemented in October 2002. These stringent standards put in place a system to certify that specific practices are used to produce and process organic agricultural ingredients used for food and non-food purposes.”

Resources on What Organic Produce and Agriculture Means

Organic Trade Association
“Consumers can look for the “USDA Organic” seal or other approved labeling, and for the name of the certifier on the label of the products they consider for purchase. Products labeled “100% Organic” and carrying the “USDA Organic” seal are just that – they contain all organically produced ingredients. Products that are made from at least 95% organic ingredients, and have remaining ingredients that are approved for use in organic products may also carry the “USDA Organic” seal.”

Wikipedia Definition on Organic Food
“Organic foods are foods that are produced using methods that do not involve modern synthetic inputs such as synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers, do not contain genetically modified organisms, and are not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives.”

Organic.org LogoOrganic.Org Information
“The word “organic” is everywhere, but what does it mean and why is it so important? We believe in the fundamental effects that an organic lifestyle can have on us. From personal health to a healthier planet, we invite you to learn more about what going organic can mean to you.”

Organic Consumers Association
Top stories up to the minute on everything organic, sustainable and more.

USDA Organic SealUSDA.GOV National Organic Program Information
“What is organic? Organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.”

Whole Foods Market on Organic Food
“What does “Organic” Mean? Organic agriculture is a production method that emphasizes the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality. Organic food products are produced using…”

USDA National Agricultural Library: Organic Production and Organic Food
“What is organic production? USDA Definition and Regulations: The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), enacted under Title 21 of the 1990 Farm Bill, served to establish uniform national standards for the production and handling of foods labeled as “organic.” The Act authorized a new USDA National Organic Program (NOP) to set national standards for the production, handling, and processing of organically grown agricultural products. In addition, the Program oversees mandatory certification of organic production. The Act also established the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) which advises the Secretary of Agriculture in setting the standards upon which the NOP is based. Producers who meet standards set by the NOP may label their products as “USDA Certified Organic.””

USDA Organic Diagram
IFOAM Definition of Organic Agriculture
“Brief History of Defining Organic Agriculture for the World. After a two year consultative process, in September 2005 in Adelaide, Australia the General Assembly of IFOAM adopted the Principles of Organic Agriculture which are the fundamentals of Organic Agriculture: health, ecology, care and fairness. The General Assembly also passed a motion to establish a succinct Definition of Organic Agriculture. This definition must explain what Organic Agriculture is, reflecting its true nature and the Principles in a concise way.”

OTA: National Organic Program Definition
“Organic production. A production system that is managed in accordance with the Act and regulations in this part to respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.”

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