August 20, 2010

Answers For the Socially Responsible Shopper: Organic

One World Projects Organic Chocolate
If you're anything like most people, you love the idea of organic food, but don't actually have any idea what... it... means...  You know it has something to do with reducing pesticides and that it's good for the environment, but the details of organic certification are not something you can rattle off at a moment's notice.

So, to clear up the confusion, let's take a look at the story of organic foods, and how the word "organic" is defined in the marketplace.

For modern food stores, organic food is hot, hot, hot.  Sales of organic foods and beverages in the US alone have grown 250% over the past 20 years, from $1 billion in 1990 to $24.8 billion in 2009.  Sales in 2009 grew 5.1 percent over 2008, and that was with the "Great Recession."  Fruits and Vegetables experienced the highest rate of grown at 11.4% from 2008 to 2009.  And, as of 2008, 4.8 million acres of US land were certified organic.

So what makes food "organic"?

Organic food is certified by the National Organic Program (NOP), which was established after the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) was passed by Congress in 1990 to regulate the increasingly popular organic food industry.  The basics of NOP's regulations are as follows:
  • No artificial pesticides (with a few exceptions), petroleum fertilizers or sewage sludge-based fertilizers can be used in crop production
  • Animals must have access to fresh air and consume organic feed
  • No genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, or sewage sludge used in production or handling
  • Products displaying the organic certification label must be at least 95% Organic and may display the USDA Organic seal
  • Products that display the claim "100% Organic" must be 100% certified organic
  • Products with at least 70% organic ingredients can claim to be "made with organic ingrediants" but cannot display the USDA Organic Seal
  • Products with less than 70% organic ingredients can only make organic claims about the specific ingredients that are organic
Manufacturers that make false claims about organic certification will face fines starting at $11,000, so, it's afe to say that if the USDA seal appears on the product you wish to buy, it's a truly organic substance.

If you looking for certified organic indulgence, check out One World Projects' USDA Certified Organic Brazil nuts, Brazil nut oil, and chocolate. Mmm!

Thanks to the Organic Trade Association for the stats!

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