Organic is a labeling term used to indicate that products were produced with approved methods. These methods are based on integrating practices that promote balancing resources and ecological concerns. These foods are produced through organic farming and organic production.
Some key facts to organic farming and production include:
- Crops must be grown without using bioengineering, synthetic pesticides, chemical, petroleum based or sewage-sludge fertilizers.
- Livestock must be humanely raised, allowed adequate exercise, fed certified organic feeds, and provided sanitary facilities and pastures. Livestock cannot be given prohibited drugs such as antibiotics or growth hormones.
- Irradiated foods can’t be labeled organic.
- Farming practices must emphasize biodiversity. These practices should focus on renewable resources, soil, and water conservation.
- The use of additives, processing aids, fortifying agents including preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colorings, flavorings, and monosodium glutamate may be severely restricted or completely banned.
The USDA is responsible for the National Organic Program (NOP) that regulates all organic crops, livestock, and agricultural products. The NOP enforces the standards for the use of the term “organic” in the production and sale of organic foods. If a food product is being misbranded as organic and sold to the public, the producer could face a $10,000 fine per violation by the NOP.
The term “organic” represents practices that are not related to the safety of the product. The USDA makes no claims that organic food is safer or more nutritious than conventionally produced food. For many, it’s a lifestyle choice to purchase organic foods either due to food and/or chemical allergies or for personal beliefs on environmental sustainability. A recent study examined the past 50 years' worth of scientific articles about the nutrient content of organic and conventional foods. The researchers concluded that organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs are comparable in their nutrient content. There is ongoing research related to this subject.