Organic is one label that most consumers are familiar with, but understanding what “organic” really means can help consumers make informed choices. If a product meets these requirements, its label may include a statement like, “Made with organic oats and cranberries.” A more generic statement like, “Made with organic ingredients,” is not allowed.
This is the sixteenth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.
Deciphering food labels and marketing claims can be a challenge for the average consumer. Companies use production and handling claims as a way to differentiate their products in the marketplace. Organic is one label that most consumers are familiar with, but understanding what “organic” really means can help consumers make informed choices.
USDA certified organic products have strict production and labeling requirements. The U.S. organic industry is regulated by the National Organic Program (NOP), part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. Certified organic products are produced without excluded methods such as genetic engineering or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The organic standards are designed to allow natural substances in organic farming while prohibiting synthetic substances. Read more »
Organic inspector Elizabeth Whitlow at an organic vineyard inspection. Every organic operation involved between the farm and market is inspected to verify compliance with the USDA organic regulations. Photo courtesy ccof.org.
This is the fifteenth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.
USDA certified organic products are produced and sold around the world, many originating from over 17,700 organic operations right here in the United States. The USDA organic label assures consumers that products have been produced through approved methods and that prohibited substances, like synthetic pesticides, have not been used. I am often asked how the USDA verifies organic claims, and whether organic operations are inspected.
In order to sell, label, or represent products as organic in the United States, operations must be certified. The National Organic Program, part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, accredits private, foreign, and State entities called certifying agents to certify and inspect organic operations.
So how does this all work? First, the operation would apply for certification through a certifying agent. The certifier will ask for information including a history of substances applied to land during the previous three years, and an Organic System Plan describing the practices and substances to be used. The certifier reviews applications to verify that practices comply with USDA organic regulations, and then an inspector conducts an on-site inspection. Read more »
Expanding trade for U.S. organic products—like the carrots pictured above—creates opportunities for small businesses and increases jobs for Americans who grow, package, ship and market their organic products.
Are you a certified organic operation looking to increase your market presence? USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) recently published two fact sheets that explain the basics of importing and exporting organic products to assist organic producers and processors in accessing new markets for their products.
Expanding trade for U.S. organic products creates opportunities for small businesses and increases jobs for Americans who grow, package, ship and market organic products. During this Administration, USDA has streamlined trade with multiple foreign governments. Read more »
Organic agriculture is a strong contributor to USDA’s goals for rural economic development, and we are committed to supporting continued growth of the organic sector by removing obstacles for organic farmers and businesses.
As an organic farmer, I know how frustrating it can be to search the internet for information that might help my operation. It might be there somewhere but finding it takes precious time, especially if I don’t know exactly what I’m looking for. Now, USDA has solved part of that problem with a centralized web resource center on USDA.gov for all the programs, services, and data we have that support organic agriculture. Not only is this web resource center a “one-stop shop” for information about organics at USDA, but there is lots in store!
Organic operations (and those considering transitioning to organic) can: Read more »
This is the thirteenth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.
The use of genetic engineering, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is prohibited in organic products. This means an organic farmer can’t plant GMO seeds, an organic cow can’t eat GMO alfalfa or corn, and an organic soup producer can’t use any GMO ingredients. To meet the USDA organic regulations, farmers and processors must show they aren’t using GMOs and that they are protecting their products from contact with prohibited substances, such as GMOs, from farm to table.
Organic operations implement preventive practices based on site-specific risk factors, such as neighboring conventional farms or shared farm equipment or processing facilities. For example, some farmers plant their seeds early or late to avoid organic and GMO crops flowering at the same time (which can cause cross-pollination). Others harvest crops prior to flowering or sign cooperative agreements with neighboring farms to avoid planting GMO crops next to organic ones. Farmers also designate the edges of their land as a buffer zone where the land is managed organically, but the crops aren’t sold as organic. Any shared farm or processing equipment must be thoroughly cleaned to prevent unintended exposure to GMOs or prohibited substances. Read more »
The ‘Sound and Sensible’ initiative is about removing barriers to certification, and working with farmers, like the one pictured here, to correct small issues before they become larger ones.
This is the twelfth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.
Consumers purchase organic products expecting that they maintain their organic integrity from farm to market. Under the USDA organic rules, organic farmers must demonstrate they are protecting the environment, supporting animal health and welfare, and producing their products without the use of prohibited substances (including synthetic pesticides). Read more »