Definition of Organic

Lord Northbourne coined the term organic farming in his book Look to the Land (1940).  He used it to describe a holistic, ecologically-balanced approach to farming—in contrast to what he called chemical farming.

USDA labeling rules (as of October, 2002) for foods containing more than one ingredient, like cereal:

  • 100% Organic– means that every ingredient in the product was raised and harvested in an organic environment as approved and certified by the USDA.
  • Organic– means that 70% to 95% percent of all the ingredients are certified organic.
  • Made with Organic Ingredients – means a minimum of 70% of the ingredients are organic.

For a product to be labeled organic, a government certifier inspects the farm to make sure the farmer is following all the rules.  Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to the local supermarket or restaurant must also be certified.  To qualify as organic farmers, they must  use renewable resources and endeavor to conserve soil and water to enhance the environmental quality for future generations.

Organic milk and meat must come from livestock grazing on pasture for at least four months of the year, and 30% of their feed must come from grazing.  Ranchers must have a plan to protect soil and water quality.  (Rule takes effect June, 2010 and farmers have one year to comply).

Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones during their lives.

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