How to make sure that the food you’re buying is organic.

In the world today the things we put in our bodies could potentially be covered in pesticides and be genetically altered from the original version. We have become increasingly aware of these problems and for this reason have come up with labels to tell us what exactly we are eating and wearing.

The difference between organic and natural.
Many people believe that natural and organic are interchangeable, however they are not. Natural foods can include organics foods, but not all natural foods are organic. Basically, natural food means that it’s been minimally processed and is additive free, however it does not have to follow the standards set by the USDA. This can mean that pesticides were used on these products and some may even be genetically modified organisms.

What is a GMO?
A genetically modified organism can be anything from a fruit to vegetable that is genetically engineered. For example, seedless grapes cannot be organic nor can cloned fruits or animals. Cows injected with Bovine Growth Hormone are also not organic. It’s actually extremely difficult to even buy seeds that are not somehow cross-bred with other species to improve their growth and/or insect resistance. This means fruits and vegetables that you grow yourself technically aren’t organic.

To be organic, foods must follow these USDA regulations:
1. no use of irradiation, sewage sludge, or genetically modified organisms (GMO) in organic production
2. reflect NOSB recommendations on the national list of allowed synthetic and prohibited substances
3. no antibiotics in organic meat and poultry
4. 100% organic feed for livestock. (Source: MayoClinic)

How to find organic food.
So how can you tell if something is really organic?
Well the USDA has broken food stuffs into 4 different categories.
- 100% organic: everything is organic
- organic: 95%-99% organic ingredients. Remaining ingredients are not available organically.
- Made with organic ingredients: food must contain 70-94% organic ingredients and will not bear the USDA organic seal.
 - Other: products with less than 70% organic materials. These will not have the seal. (Source: North Carolina Cooperative Extension)

Only 100% organic and organic will have the USDA seal of approval. Even with the USDA organic seal, it’s always best to check the list of ingredients before you buy something claiming to be organic (after all organic seal means 95%-99% organic ingredients). Check out the list of 38 allowed non-organic materials and see if what your buying complies with the regulations. (Source: The Daily Green). Many organic purists believe that foods labeled organic should be 100% organic and that the list is also outdated, especially regarding hops. There are, in fact, several breweries working on creating organic hops to create a truly organic beer experience.

Labels and seals from the USDA do some good when shopping at a store, but the best thing to do is to go to the local farmer’s market and ask the vendors (generally they are the actual farmers) their agricultural and livestock practices. Most food at a farmers market will either be organic or at least “natural”. If you don’t have one, there are plenty of sites online that offer organic foods and groceries delivered fresh to your door. If you live in the New York/Jersey area check out Organic Direct.
Jasmine Greene


Ivan Mcilroy
cowboss at wscc8 years ago

Just a note you may or may not know about "Organic":

....... In Canada, (and I am not sure what the rules are in other countries), it is allowable to be "Certified Organic" and use chicken and pig manure for fertilizer from animals which have been fed Arsenic. 95% of this fed arsenic is excreted and then spread with the manure on the land. ----- A Glaring hole in the Organic certification process.

The issue of feeding arsenic to poultry and pigs is an issue that needs attention --- maybe you would sign my petition to ban it. It's right here at Care2

thanx ... cowboss

Carl C.
Carl C8 years ago

There is a great different between selectively bred foods and chemically altered foods. Most of the natural foods we eat were modified for increased production and easier digestion and/or storage. Pesticides and chemical additives are another story altogether.

On the other hand, the USDA program is heavy on documentation and paper work, and goes beyond what a small farmer can effectively manage. So your organic food in Vermont may come from California - creating a large ecological footprint.

I buy as much as possible at local farmers markets from family farms who maintain organic guidelines as much as possible. This may cost a little more than the supermarket, but I get fresh, healthy food from people I know and whose kids have gone to my school over the years. the community prospers and good people all help each other!

Chris R.
Chris R8 years ago

In response to Les Rose. 3 important points that your extensive research seemed to neglect.

1)Organic food isnt just about the consumers health but also about the health of ecosystems. Pesticide/herbicide use is polluting our soil & groundwater & we are slowly destroying our ability to grow crops-especially in the US. The poisoned water often contamintaes drinking water sources & causes human poisonings. Farm workers are contracting diseases from the chemicals including various cancers. These things dont happen on organic farms!

2)Farm animals of all kinds are treated with extreme cruelty & neglect on typical(intensive)farms. Organic farms are under strict rules that prohibit the prolonged suffering of any animals. They're allowed to roam the land as opposed to living in cages that keep them immobile and/or living in their own waste-which occurs on many intensive farms. They eat only organic foods & are not given medicines/drugs that can affect humans(research "growth hormone in milk"). AND they arent exposed to torturous conditions (research "veal").

3)Artificial selection of organisms over "millenia" is not the same as a GM food. GM foods splice DNA from other organisms into the food organisms DNA to modify it in certain ways. There is no way to know how that will affect the organism or the ecosystems the organism lives in. If we create crops resitant to parasites or pests then these organisms will evolve and get worse.

Its not just about us

Theresa G.
Theresa G.8 years ago

Oh please, our sources aren't even close to comparable. I read the article you quote and it's superficial and sensational (...uh what was the term? gobbledygook). I'll take the USC over a lone newspaper journalist on a deadline as an authority when it comes to something this important. But you obviously dismiss the severity of the scientific evidence available, just as you dismiss supporting one's claim with a valid resource ("one URL after the other") so no, there's no convincing you. But others might want to compare the sites we quote, or maybe the qualifications of the USC Board: over the Manchester Business School. ROFL

Les Rose
Les Rose8 years ago

Did I say anything in defence of intensive farming? I was just reacting to this hijacking of the word `natural'. But the environmental benefits of organic farming are not at all clear - see

It has become a sort of religion, in that its proponents rely on assumptions and beliefs and not evidence. Just a current fad.

OK, I know you are going to bombard me with one URL after the other, and it's always easy to go mad with Google and select stuff that seems to support you. Just so you know I will need more convincing than that.

Theresa G.
Theresa G.8 years ago

There are all forms of gobbledegook. Naively assuming that the vast majority of the food we eat today is the result of safe and sustainable practices even remotely similar to our "selective breeding for millennia" is a big mistake. The scam is not that organic foods are overpriced, but that most food grown at tremendous cost to our future is under-priced. At least by buying "overpriced" organic food, we are sending a message to companies that things must change. Better yet, join a co-op. I think I DO know better and the Union of Concerned Scientists do, as well:

Les Rose
Les Rose8 years ago

This article is gobbledegook. Virtually nothing we eat is natural. Almost all animal and plant foods have been genetically engineered by selective breeding for millennia. You are more likely to be poisoned by aflatoxins on organic apples than by pesticides. There is absolutely no evidence that an organic diet leads to better health, or that organic food tastes better. Organic food is great for the supermarkets because they can charge so much more for it, and people who don't know better will pay.