The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) defines organic agriculture as a methodology that creates products utilizing best practices designed to preserve the environment and avoid synthetic pesticides, antibiotics, hormones or genetically modified seeds/foods. The USDA NOP program has specific requirements about how farmers and ranchers grow crops and raise livestock and which seeds, and feeds they can use
These requirements cover the product from farm to table, and address issues such as soil and water quality, pest control, livestock practices, and rules for food additives.
Some of the requirements for organic farming include-
Preserving resources that contribute to biodiversity
Supporting animal well-being and overall health
Providing access to the outdoors to ensure that animals can exercise
Only using authorized products
Not using genetically modified materials
Being subjected to annual inspections that are on location
Separating food that is organic non-organic food”
Not utilizing any type of irradiation or x-rays to get rid of pests, which can lead to DNA mutations.
Manure and compost are used in place of synthetic fertilizers.
Only organic insecticides are used produced by plant oils, soap, fungus eating bacteria, or bugs that eat other bugs.
In short organically grown food is defined as food prepared by sticking to a strict regimen of rules and practices. In order to be certified farmers are regularly subject to scheduled inspections and must meet certain standards.
This is a point that is important to consider. When a food gets the USDA Organic Label it indicates it has at least 95% organic ingredients and the farm was examined by a government approved expert to ensure that the farmer is sticking to the criteria established by the USDA. Before the USDA NOP was started there were no specifications in place, which meant you never knew how your food was being grown.
The USDA organic labeling program began in 2001 and as of 2016 there are over 31,000 commercial farmers in the US and in over 100 countries around the globe that are organic certified. Today organic food is a $43 billion industry, and is the fastest growing niches in the food sector.
Are Organic Foods Pesticide Free?
While it is simple to define organic food, one of the prevalent misconceptions and commonly cited reason for eating organics is that they are pesticide free.
The fact of the matter is that they are only free of synthetic pesticides. Because one of the requirements to be considered organic is to not apply synthetic pesticide, as noted above, farmers can however use organic pesticides and fertilizers taken from plant life or other organic materials which may or may not be just as toxic to humans. Despite this, in a poll done in the UNITED KINGDOM in 2005, 95% of people said they were eating organic food in order to avoid pesticides and food additives.
Nevertheless in a study done in 2014 at Newcastle University in the UK the scientists concluded that pesticide residues were four times more likely in conventional crops than in organic ones.
It’s quite easy to define organic foods because it has distinct standards and requirements to meet and while they are not pesticide free I believe that organic food does taste better since it doesn’t rely on lots of preservatives it needs to be fresher, which also generally equates to tastier.