Organic food production prohibits the use of sewage sludge, genetically engineered or genetically modified organisms, ionizing radiation, most synthetic pesticides, and fertilizers. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, and dairy products must be free of antibiotics and growth hormones. Animals require to be fed on organic feed only. Organic regulation prescribes specific requirements for feeding, housing, and breeding. Animals need to be raised in natural, humane conditions.

Most regulators like the USFDA require agricultural farms to adhere to organic farming practices for three years before the farm output can be certified as organic. It ensures that crops are not contaminated with substances prohibited in organically produced food. National Organic Programs put standards that need to be adhered to to be certified organic.

The certification covers cultivation and storage, processing, packaging, and shipping. Standards for certification can vary from country to country. In some countries, certification is overseen by the government. In other jurisdictions – like the US and in India — certificate is provided by notified private institutions. Farmers engaged in organic farming must maintain an audit trail to allow inspectors to visit and keep the farm organically certified.

Certified organic foods do not necessarily need to be free of all pesticides; they do permit the use of some pesticides. Organic certification is issued to producers of agricultural and farm products, seed suppliers, food processors, retailers and restaurants, and all those who deal in organic farm products.

The food industry’s use of labels — natural, all-natural, free-range, or hormone-free — should not be confused with organic; the two are not synonymous. The use of natural, free-range, hormone-free is simply a statement describing the property in the food item. The natural label will mean minimally processed and could include non-use of artificial flavors and colors, preservatives, and other artificial ingredients.

Additional reading:

Nutrition Facts – a guide to good health

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