What Organic Really Means in 2005

The term "organic" is used everywhere. What exactly does that mean?

"Organic" refers to the methods by which foods, cottons, woolens, etc., are farmed and processed, without chemicals, pesticides, radiation, or other artificial intervention. Organic farming techniques allow natural soil replenishment, without the chemical saturation that depletes natural nutrients plants, and grazing animals, need to live. Organic products must also be processed naturally, without chemical washes, additives or treatments that have dominated markets since WWII.

Officially, according to the National Organic Standards Board, "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." In other words, it's got to be organic and as chemical free as possible, from seed to finished product.

Bear in mind that most organic retailers can promise minimal exposure to chemical inputs. That means that organic products are raised, processed, and assembled without chemical intervention. Exposure to existing hemispheric and residual industrial toxins cannot be avoided until years after environmentally responsible legislation is enacted. Perhaps in generations to come, Earth's environment will be cleansed enough to guarantee absolute purity. Only with your support will that be possible.

What is Organic Certification?

There are in place quite stringent standards for organic certification that are established at local levels, and by private organizations. Certification is an industry "watchdog" seal of approval, and is not the same as government regulation.

Organic certification involves inspections, soil and water testing; testing of processing facilities, record keeping requirements, to ensure all standards are being met at all times. Many products may be called organic, but look for the certification. That's your assurance your purchase is truly organic, not organically produced in one place and artificially processed in another place.

Who regulates the certified organic claims?

(The following consumer information is taken directly from an article on the Organic Trade Association site, ota.com.)

"The federal government set standards for the production, processing and certification of organic food in the Organic Food Production Act of 1990 (OFPA). The National Organic Standards Board was then established to develop guidelines and procedures to regulate all organic crops. The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) during December 2000 unveiled detailed regulations to implement OFPA. These took effect on April 21, 2001, with an 18-month implementation period ending October 2002. At that time, any food labeled organic must meet these national organic standards. USDA's National Organic Program oversees the program."

There you go. Legal standards for organic farming and production are now cast in Washington granite!

Susan Fullen-Yurek is an organic products entrepreneur (http://www.kushtush.com) and freelance author committed to supporting environmental awareness and the "greening of the planet" for our children and grandchildren. Embracing and supporting environmental initiatives signals a return to "natural common sense" and rejection of powerful corporate lobbies dictating the health and future of our families.

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