What does organic mean? There is more than one classification of organic certification, but the broad term organic refers to an item that is minimally processed and not modified genetically or with potential toxins.
Different Organic Certifications
A label on food or other item for sale declaring the product organic can mean different things depending on the type of certification the product has.
- 100 Percent Organic: This label can only be used on products that contain only organic components. This means that there is nothing contained within the item that is not completely organic.
- Organic: This label can only be used on products that contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients or components. Products with this label may contain some ingredients that are not organic.
- Made With Organic Ingredients: This label can only be used on items that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients. This certification means that although the majority of ingredients used in the product are indeed organic, there may also be a high concentration of conventionally produced ingredients.
Look closely at the organic labels on food and other products. Just because an item has an organic certification, it does not necessarily indicate that the item is completely organic.
So What Does Organic Mean?
Organic certification labels indicate the concentration of organic materials within a product, but what does organic mean, really? This term is used to describe items that are produced in a way that conforms to certain standards:
- No Harmful Toxins: Conventionally produced foods and other crops are routinely sprayed with chemicals and otherwise exposed to potentially harmful compounds, some of which have been proven to be harmful to people and animals in certain concentrations. Foods that are sprayed with pesticides, or that are grown in chemically treated soil, can potentially pass the same toxins along to the person or animal eating the food. Organic foods and products do not contain these chemicals and are produced with minimal processing.
- No Synthetic or Artificial Ingredients: While conventionally produced foods and other items commonly contain artificial colors and ingredients, organic items are not allowed to contain anything artificial. Any dyes used in organic items will be natural, organic dyes and there will not be artificial preservatives.
- No Genetically Modified Organisms: GMOs are not allowed in organic foods. A genetically modified organism is an item that has been genetically altered to change something about the item. For example, a potato genetically modified to grow larger or a corn crop genetically modified to better sustain cool weather are both GMOs. You will not find GMOs in organic food.
- Agricultural Sustainability: Organic items are produced with the environment in mind. Packaging is minimal; meaning less waste after the item has been used. Recycled materials are used during the production and packaging of organic items. Organic farming can be more costly and time consuming than conventional farming, which accounts for the higher prices associated with organic items.
- Cruelty Free: Most organic products, especially skin and hair care products, can boast the claim of not being tested on animals.
It is important to keep in mind that in order to avoid any items that contain chemical toxins, GMOs or any other undesirable components, shoppers should look for organic items that are labeled 100 percent organic.
The term organic can vary from one country to another. Most countries have regulations in place that specify what may be coined organic and what does not qualify for this label. Items sold within the United States that are marketed as organic should comply with United States organic standards, even if the items originate from another country.
When traveling overseas, realize that an item advertised as "organic" may not meet the same standards as an organic item within the U.S. This is due to the varying regulations for organic labeling around the globe.