Do you ever wonder about food labels that say “organic”? It’s interesting how food labels can deceive us in good and bad ways. I wrote my dissertation on urban agriculture and defined organic farming as growing food without pesticides or heavy equipment. Organic products have seeped into our choices in cleaning products, clothing and food. How do we know that our food is really organic? What does it mean when a label reads “organic” in quotes? Why is it so confusing to decide what is or is not organic?
Organic: Flexible Definitions
Organic has many definitions, its basic meaning is “relating to living organisms”. This adverb describes a type of farming (organic farming), and is a marketing tool for many products.
Organic soaps, health and beauty products, and food that contain chemicals are false advertising – they are not organic. Consumers should read the labels for ingredients. organic foods have few ingredients. Many food products should be certified organic, but it is a costly process for many farmers.
My dissertation revealed that farmers can grow organic food even if they ‘re not certified to grow organic.
Is it Really Organic?
I keep an eye on food labels and one day asked the grocery staff about labels on fruits and vegetables. He said organic produce has 5 digits and start with the number 9. Anything with four digits is non-organic.
Be aware of genetically modified produce with 5 digits and start with the number 8.
One source identified only “USDA-certified organic” as true organic products. They must meet three standards:
- The product carries the USDA Organic Seal
- The product is certified organic
- The product contains over 95% organic ingredients
As I said, many farmers grow organic produce but are not certified organic. And many farmers’ markets sell produce that is not labelled. It’s not clear if the food is organic or
Mislabeled Organic Foods
Labeling is tricky even for the USDA. Some certifying agents and the USDA itself certify products as organic when they don’t follow the three standards.
Enforcing federal laws on organics is challenging. Sellers should label their products, or face fines for selling food advertised as organic. The organic food industry is growing but many consumers are confused about what is organic.
If you don’t trust the USDA’s certifying process, a good option is to talk to your local growers. Ask them how they grow your food.
When in doubt about organics, ask questions. Your local farmers are a good resource for growing organic.
To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.