“Organic” has somehow earned a reputation over the years for being a trendy new way to eat and live. But the truth is that growing crops with pesticides, raising cattle in cramped conditions and other “conventional” methods that make farming more “efficient” are the new way of doing things.
Organic farming is closer to the way our ancestors grew crops and raised livestock. It may not be as efficient or cost effective as the new way, but there’s a good reason we’re stepping back.
Organic vs. Conventional
Conventional farming practices use chemicals and methods that make their farming operations highly efficient. This helps the farms to produce higher quantities of food and crops at a lower cost. From an economic perspective, that’s fantastic and is what every business wants!
Unfortunately conventional farming methods are short-sighted. Their efficient practices pollute the environment, introduce unsafe chemicals to our food and water supply and drain the land of life-sustaining nutrients without giving any back. The practices are also inhumane toward animals and endanger the health of farm workers and consumers.
Organic farming practices minimize pollution, enhance the quality of the environment, reduce water usage and help to protect the health of people, animals, plants and soil life.
Chemicals and farming methods that endanger these goals are prohibited on organic farms.
In contrast to conventional farms…
- Organic farms DO:
- Use cover crops and animal manure to add nutrients to the soil.
- Manage weeds, fungus, disease and insects through crop rotation and other biological controls.
- Allow livestock to graze on healthy pastures and accommodate natural foraging behaviors.
- Feed livestock 100% organic grass or grain when they are not grazing outdoors.
- Raise livestock naturally without the use of growth hormones or antibiotics.
- Organic farms DO NOT:
- Use genetically modified organisms (GMO), synthetic fertilizers or sewage sludge.
- Irradiate their agricultural products.
- Employ synthetic pesticides, except those on the USDA’s approved list.
What Can Be Certified Organic?
When we talk about farming practices, we’re not just talking about food — we’re talking about any agricultural product.
If your bed sheets are a mix of cotton (natural) and polyester (synthetic), then they contain an agricultural ingredient (cotton) that may have been grown using either conventional or organic farming practices.
The same goes for shampoo, lipstick, aftershave lotion, carpeting, wine and flowers. Any agricultural ingredients in these products may be either conventionally or organically grown.
Food, flowers, clothing, textiles, alcohol and personal skin care items may all be made from agricultural ingredients and, depending on how they were produced, may eligible for organic certification.
How To Read Organic Labels
Products can contain multiple ingredients, some agricultural and some synthetic. As a result, there are varying degrees to which a product can be certified organic.
Multi-ingredient foods or products
- 100% Organic: If the label specifically says “100% organic”, then the product does not contain any synthetic ingredients. Every ingredient is agricultural and each has been grown using certified organic farming methods.
- Organic: If the label just says “organic”, then at least 95% of the product’s ingredients are agricultural and certified organic. The remaining 5% may be conventionally grown agriculture or approved synthetic materials.
- Made With Organic Ingredients: If the label says the product has been “made with organic ingredients” then more than 70% of the product’s ingredients are agricultural and certified organic. You can check the ingredients list to see which ingredients are certified.
- Ingredients list: Products with fewer than 70% certified organic ingredients may call out specific organic ingredients in the ingredient list, but their label cannot claim the product to be “organic” and cannot boast that it is “made with organic ingredients”.
- Single-ingredient items such as milk, flowers or fresh fruit are either 100% organic or not organic at all. They cannot be partially organic and they do not contain any synthetic additives.
- Meat, poultry, eggs and milk that are certified organic come from animals that have been raised according to standards intended to promote their health and welfare.