What Is Organic Food?

Joley Vessell

How Is Organic Food Defined?

Food grown or made without the use of artificial chemicals.

How Did the Organic Movement Begin?

  • Until the 1920’s, all agriculture was generally organic. Farmers used natural means to feed the soil and to control pests.
  • It was not until the Second World War that farming methods changed dramatically. It was when research on chemicals designed as nerve gas showed they were also capable of killing insects.
  • In 1939, Paul Muller developed DDT, the first of a new class of insecticides – chlorinated hydrocarbons to counter the pest problems. Since then, a new way of farming emerged, where the use of chemicals was heavily promoted. This led to the outright dismissal of organic farming methods.
  • The ‘be natural’ approach of the 1960s and 1970s, the growing consumer interest in health and nutrition, the growth of the green movement, the focus on conservation and environmental issues stimulated the development of the organic market and encouraged farmers to adopt organic methods.
  • The organic movement had sprung directly from the customers’ demand as they became sick of the health hazards associated with the use of chemicals in food and household products. Products offered only through health food stores in the 1970s and 1980s spread to the corners of supermarkets in the 1990s. Today, organic products occupy prime shelf space in the big chain supermarkets.

What Does It Mean To Be Organic?

Simply put, organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations.

Does Organic Food Mean Family Farms?

No, but Before a product can be labeled "organic," a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.

What Does The Organic Label mean?

The USDA has identified for three categories of labeling organic products:
  1. 100% organic: Made with 100% organic ingredients
  2. Organic: Made with at least 95% organic ingredients
  3. Made With Organic Ingredients: Made with a minimum of 70% organic ingredients with strict restrictions on the remaining 30% including no GMOs (genetically modified organisms)



  • Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may list organically produced ingredients on the side panel of the package, but may not make any organic claims on the front of the package.
The USDA Organic seal assures consumers of the quality and integrity of organic products. Organic-certified operations must have an organic system plan and records that verify compliance with that plan. Operators are inspected annually in addition there are random checks to assure standards are being met.

What Doesn't The Organic Label Mean?

  • Though the ingredients are healthily grown, organic doesn't translate to "diet food," so check nutrition facts on packages.
  • MSC certification isn't a green light to "all you can eat." The broader the variety of bivalves, crustaceans and fish you purchase, the less pressure you'll put on any particular species.
  • Unlike USDA Organic, FAC doesn't require 100 percent organic feed for animals or 100 percent organic pest management. However, the farming practices have been shown to reduce the amount of pesticides needed in the first place.
  • This seal indicates that a company has purchased Renewable Energy Certificates, carbon offsets or Water Restoration Certificates in order to reduce the environmental impact of their products.