National Organic Harvest Month on September, 2023: What does organic mean?
September, 2023 is National Organic Harvest Month 2023. Celebrate National Organic Harvest Month « Albert's Organics Blog Celebrate National Organic
organic is regulated in the USA by the USDA national organic program. there is a 1500+ page regulation as to how organic foods are to be grown and processed. organic foods cannot be grown using synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. No genetically Modified organisms or sewage sludge can be used. manure either has to be composted or used at least 4 months before the crop is harvested. the farmer must come up with a 4+ year crop rotation plan and an on farm fertility plan.
for a lot more information.
natural can mean anything as there is no standard or regulations concerning the term natural.
With apples if the apple is from the west coast (WA) it likely will not have more than 5 different pesticides and fungicides on it as there are fewer than 10 pests and diseases that hit western apple orchards. But east of the Rockie Mountains it is another story. The further east you go the more pest and diseases there are that affect apple trees and fruit. So it is a lot harder to grow apples using organic methods and a wider array of fungicides and insecticides need to be used to get the pretty apples most people seem to think they need (ugly apples are quite tasty too).
When can a product be called "organic"?
Taken from the USDA website:
The Organic Foods Production Act and the National Organic Program (NOP) are intended to assure consumers that the organic foods they purchase are produced, processed, and certified to consistent national organic standards. The labeling requirements of the new program apply to raw, fresh products and processed foods that contain organic ingredients. Foods that are sold, labeled, or represented as organic will have to be produced and processed in accordance with the NOP standards.
Except for operations whose gross agricultural income from organic sales totals $5,000 or less, farm and processing operations that grow and process organic foods must be certified by USDA-accredited certifying agents. A certified operation may label its products or ingredients as organic and may use the "USDA Organic" seal.
Labeling requirements are based on the percentage of organic ingredients in a product.
Foods labeled "100 percent organic" and "organic"
Products labeled as "100 percent organic" must contain (excluding water and salt) only organically produced ingredients.
Products labeled "organic" must consist of at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding water and salt). Any remaining product ingredients must consist of nonagricultural substances approved on the National List or non-organically produced agricultural products that are not commercially available in organic form.
Products meeting the requirements for "100 percent organic" and "organic" may display these terms and the percentage of organic content on their principal display panel.
The USDA seal and the seal or mark of involved certifying agents may appear on product packages and in advertisements.
Foods labeled "100 percent organic" and "organic" cannot be produced using excluded methods, sewage sludge, or ionizing radiation.
Processed products labeled "made with organic ingredients"
Processed products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients can use the phrase "made with organic ingredients" and list up to three of the organic ingredients or food groups on the principal display panel. For example, soup made with at least 70 percent organic ingredients and only organic vegetables may be labeled either "soup made with organic peas, potatoes, and carrots," or "soup made with organic vegetables."
Processed products labeled "made with organic ingredients" cannot be produced using excluded methods, sewage sludge, or ionizing radiation.
The percentage of organic content and the certifying agent seal or mark may be used on the principal display panel. However, the USDA seal cannot be used anywhere on the package.
Processed products that contain less than 70 percent organic ingredients
These products cannot use the term organic anywhere on the principal display panel. However, they may identify the specific ingredients that are organically produced on the ingredients statement on the information panel.
Other labeling provisions
Any product labeled as organic must identify each organically produced ingredient in the ingredient statement on the information panel.
The name and address of the certifying agent of the final product must be displayed on the information panel.
There are no restrictions in this final rule on use of other truthful labeling claims such as "no drugs or growth hormones used," "free range," or "sustainably harvested."
Penalties for misuse of labels
A civil penalty of up to $10,000 can be levied on any person who knowingly sells or labels as organic a product that is not produced and handled in accordance with the National Organic Program's regulations.
When the new regulations become effective, organic farmers and handlers will have 18 months to adjust their growing and processing operations and revise their product labels to conform to the new standards.
Taken from the Organic Valley website:
Organic Standards and the USDA Organic Seal
On October 21, 2002, new USDA regulations went into effect governing the labeling of foods produced using organic agriculture. Food products that contain 95-100% certified organic ingredients may use the USDA Organic seal.
As promised by the USDA, the regulations:
-Reflect National Organic Standards Board recommendations regarding which substances used in production and processing are allowed or prohibited
-Prohibit the use of irradiation, sewage sludge, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in organic production
-Prohibit antibiotic and synthetic hormone use in organic meat and poultry
-Require 100% organic feed for organic livestock
Taken from the Organic Consumers Association website:
Definition of "Organics" in the U.S.
Effective 21 October 2002, all agricultural farms and products claiming to be organic must be guaranteed by a USDA-approved independent agency to be meeting the following guidelines:
-Abstain from the application of prohibited materials (including synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and sewage sludge) for 3 years prior to certification and then continually throughout their organic license.
-Prohibit the use of genetically modified organisms and irradiation.
-Employ positive soil building, conservation, manure management and crop rotation practices.
-Provide outdoor access and pasture for livestock.
Refrain from antibiotic and hormone use in animals.
Sustain animals on 100% organic feed.
-Avoid contamination during the processing of organic products.
Keep records of all operations.
What is your stand on organic versus conventional?
I do organic and local on a budget and the secret is to grow as much as possible and/or volunteer on a farm and work for food (you will get a lot). buy in bushel amounts and can or freeze the excess. food is cheaper this way and you will have food in winter as well thus saving even more $$$.
Consider joining a CSA, many have work shares where you either get a share in exchange for work or a deep discount on a membership
I am betting there are winter CSA's and farmers markets near you. Check out
A lot of wrong information about organic farming and manure. Unlike conventional farming manure is highly restricted on organic farms and cannot be used within 4 months of harvesting tall crops what do not touch the ground and 6 months for things like leafy greens and root crops. But almost all manure is composted for 9 to 12 months before being applied to the soil. Conventional farms have no such regulations and they do use a lot of raw manure on their fields and do apply within weeks, sometimes, of planting and less than 3 months from harvest. There have been very few e-coli contamination of Organic produce and the few that have happened were traced back to livestock farms in the region or farm workers with dirty hands. The spinach example given in the answer was a conventional spinach farm FYI.
USDA Organic Regs here The USDA and not the FDA regulates the National Organic Program, FYI
Oh and local and organic is better than conventional, especially if it comes from farms that have been Organic/biodynamic for more than 15 years and the soils are in lively and balanced and the growers know what they are doing. You can taste the difference when you eat food such a farm.