What Is Organic Food?
Organic food differs from conventional food in the way that it is grown, handled, and processed. In the simplest terms, organic food is produced without the following:
* Most conventional pesticides
* Synthetic or sewage-derived fertilizers
* Genetically modified organisms
* Ionizing radiation (irradiation)
* Growth hormones
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has put in place a set of national standards that food labeled “organic” must meet, whether it is grown in the United States or imported from other countries. USDA’s National Organic Program regulates the standards for any farm, wild crop harvesting, or handling operation that wants to sell an agricultural product as organically produced. After October 21, 2002, when you buy food labeled “organic,” you can be sure that it was produced using the highest organic production and handling standards in the world. The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (NSAIS) describes organic farm certification and the National Organic Program this way:
In essence, organic certification is a simple concept.
- A third party—an organic certifying agent—evaluates producers, processors, and handlers to determine whether they conform to an established set of operating guidelines called organic standards.
- Those who conform are certified by the agent and allowed to use a logo, product statement, or certificate to document their product as certified organic.
- The certifying agent vouches for the producer and assures buyers of the organic product’s integrity.
- Organic farmers also stress the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to improve the quality of the environment for future generations.