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What is Organic?


What are the differences between 100% USDA Certified Organic, USDA Organic, Certified Organic, Organic and Natural? We will answer some of these questions so you can have a better understanding of what the term organic means.


Let’s start with Natural. "Natural foods" are often considered to be foods that are minimally processed and do not contain any hormones, antibiotics, artificial sweeteners, artificial food colors, or artificial flavorings or ingredients that were not originally in the food. In the United States, neither the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has any rules for “natural." The FDA discourages using the term. Because there is no legal meaning for natural foods, some food manufacturers include ingredients that may not be considered natural by some consumers. We as consumers would hope the food manufactures will restrict the use of natural to foods that have ingredients produced by nature, not the work of man or interfered with by man; however, there are no laws that prevent manufacturers from doing so.


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. In 1939 the term organic was used to describe a holistic, ecologically balanced approach to farming. This was in contrast to what was referred to as man made chemical farming. Chemical farming relied on man created fertility and cannot be self-sufficient nor an organic whole. Early consumers purchasing organic food would look for fresh or minimally processed food from non-chemically treated crops grown without unapproved pesticides. They mostly had to buy directly from growers: "Know your farmer, know your food" was the motto. Personal definitions of what constituted "organic" were developed through firsthand experience: by talking to farmers, seeing farm conditions, and farming activities. Small farms grew vegetables and raised livestock using organic farming practices without certification, and the individual consumer monitored the farm on their own.


Certified Organic and USDA Certified Organic is practically the same. The general consensus is that organic farming is less damaging towards people and our environment for the following reasons:

  • Organic farms do not consume or release synthetic pesticides into the environment—some of which have the potential to harm soil, water and local terrestrial and aquatic wildlife.
  • Organic farms are better than conventional farms at sustaining diverse ecosystems and populations of plants and insects, as well as animals.
  • When calculated per unit area, organic farms use less energy and produce less waste, such as packaging materials for chemicals.



National Organic Program (NOP) regulations cover in detail all aspects of food production, processing, delivery and retail sale. Under the NOP, farmers and food processors who wish to use the word "organic" in reference to their businesses and products, must be certified organic. Producers with annual sales not exceeding $5,000 are exempted and do not require certification they may use the term organic however, they must still follow NOP standards, including keeping records and submitting to a production audit if requested, and cannot use the term certified organic.


USDA Certified Organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced and certified 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 as set down through the NOP. A USDA Organic seal identifies products with at least 95% organic ingredients.


100% USDA Certified Organic

Products labeled as “100 % certified organic” must contain (by weight or fluid volume excluding water and salt) only organically produced ingredients and processing aids.


A civil penalty of up to $11,000 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.


Get to know the people and companies you are buying from. As the organic marketplace becomes larger companies interested in profit may try to word products in a way that sounds good but may have ingredients that you don’t want. Check out Cornucopia is a consumer watchdog organization. A popular ‘health’ brand is Kashi, owned by the Kellogg corporation. Most consumers believe Kashi is all natural. It should come as no surprise that Kashi cereals have been found to contain a copious amount of GMOs and pesticides, according to an explosive report from the Cornucopia Institute. Kashi’s  ’Heart to Heart Blueberry cereal’ was found to contain grains coated in the residue of many pesticides such as phosmet, carbaryl, azinphos methyl, malathion, chlorpyrifos methyl, chlorpyrifos. What’s more, the company’s products were found to oftentimes contain 100% genetically modified ingredients.


Read labels carefully and get to "Know your farmer, know your food".

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Replies to This Discussion


You can sell up to $5000 worth of fish and produce without being certified.

Producers with annual sales not exceeding $5,000 are exempted and do not require certification they may use the term organic however, they must still follow NOP standards, including keeping records and submitting to a production audit if requested, and cannot use the term certified organic.

Have you ever eaten a piece of organic fish?

The answer is no because there isn't any organic fish... until you grow some.

The rules are that the baby fish have to be fed organic food from day one and they will be considered organic, even if mom and dad were not organic.

I think it would be prudent to have mom and dad on organic food before you let them breed.

You can buy organic chicken and beef but not fish. Remember if you grow organic fish to sell you do not have any competition and can command the selling price


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