What it Really Means to be Certified Organic

We live in a day and age where people not only eat right to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but they do so because it is fashionable. People are constantly buying foods packaged as "environmentally healthy," "steroids free," and of course the ever popular "organic." So we here asked ourselves the question, what does organic even mean?

According to The National Organic Standards Board in 1995, "Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony."

Put frankly, to produce foods that are organic, they need to go through a system of farming that replenishes soil fertility without using toxic pesticides and fertilizers. Organically produced foods also must be made without the use of antibiotics, synthetic hormones and genetic engineering.

October 21, 2002 marked the official debut of the new USDA Organic seal on food. This was the conclusion of a 12-year effort by organic advocates. The new seal now gives huge support to organic agriculture, and is a great advantage to people who would rather purchase organic food.

For products labeled "Certified Organic," you can be assured that everything has been grown according to strict uniform standards. Certification involves inspections of farm fields and processing facilities, detailed record keeping, and sporadic testing of soil and water to ensure the farmers are meeting the standards that have been set.

A shopper can look at products labeled "100 Percent Organic" and carrying the "USDA Organic" seal can feel good knowing that they are just that – they contain all organically produced ingredients. Products that are made from at least 95 percent organic ingredients also carry the "USDA Organic" seal, even if they have other ingredients. The place where most people get stuck is with products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients. They are allowed to label those on the ingredient listing. Colette, a Santa Monica College student and Whole Foods vendor realizes this and said, "even though it says ‘organic' you should be aware of where you' rebuying it from because what's the other 30 percent?"

Organic products have moved past being just fresh grown fruits and vegetables. These days frozen juices, vodka, milk, ice cream, beer and chocolate can be found with the organic seal. All these foods have been grown and processed according to organic standards and have to keep a high level of quality. Organic fiber products have also gone beyond T-shirts, and include bed and bath linens, tablecloths, napkins and cosmetic puffs.

So you might be asking yourself, who cares about eating organic if the only difference is the way the food is grown? What most people do not realize is that conventional farmers use around 300 different pesticides to grow foods that are sold in supermarkets everyday. Not only do conventionally grown foods contain pesticides, they also have added chemicals and additives in them, some of which have been linked to allergic reactions, headaches, asthma, growth retardation, hyperactivity in children, heart disease and osteoporosis.

So next time you are debating between organic and not, choose the former and feel content knowing that you are aiding in taking care of your body and health, because
after all, its "in" to be organic.