The USDA defines organic foods as foods that have been grown according to federal guidelines that regulate such matters as animal husbandry, soil quality, or pest control. Generally speaking, an organic product is one that has been produced through natural means.
For example, organic produce needs to be grown on soil that has not been exposed to synthetic pesticides or fertilizers for at least three years. Organic meat comes from animals that have been allowed to engage in natural behaviors like grazing and have been given food that is also 100 percent organic. The farmer is also not permitted to administer hormones or antibiotics.
Unfortunately, not all foods labeled “organic” really are. Large companies may falsely claim that they’re selling organic products. Even worse, they can sell their products at lower prices than smaller organic farms, which puts the latter at a disadvantage. Fortunately, there are ways to ensure that you are really buying organic food.
Research food before buying
Organic foods need to have both the USDA Organic seal and the name of the organization that certified the product as organic on their label. Other certifications to look for are “Fair Trade Certified,” “Animal Welfare Approved,” “Certified Humane,” and “Demeter Biodynamic.” The last indicates that the farmer follows practices to protect the ecosystem and promote biodiversity.
It’s also possible to research food before buying it. For example, the Cornucopia Institute provides scorecards rating the producers of foods like eggs, dairy, and cereal. They also rate organic certifiers – and they dock points for certifying factory farms or hydroponics as organic.
National retailers buy up the better-known organic brands and will often start to cut corners. One way to make sure your organic food really is organic is to buy it from a local farmer. The Cornucopia Institute provides a list of questions to ask farmers to determine if their products are truly organic.
If you suspect a brand is falsely advertising a product as organic or is otherwise violating guidelines, contact a personal injury lawyer. They will advise you on how to file a complaint. For example, the National Organic Program will need information to help their investigation, such as the product’s brand name, their certifying agent, and the name of their distributor or producer.
Lobby for raising standards
There are a number of non-profit groups dedicated to protecting existing policies and strengthening guidelines. Examples include the Organic Consumers Association, the Cornucopia Institute, and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. The last, which was established in 1971, is the oldest and largest of the state-based lobbying groups.
Organic food is becoming increasingly popular, as many people appreciate its health and environmental benefits. It is also becoming increasingly profitable, and large companies want a piece of that pie. Ensuring organic food remains truly organic will require vigilance on the part of the consumers.
Meghan Belnap / Blogger, Researcher and Freelance Writer
Meghan Belnap is a freelance writer who enjoys spending time with her family. She loves being in the outdoors and exploring new opportunities whenever they arise. Meghan finds happiness in researching new topics that help to expand her horizons. You can often find her buried in a good book or out looking for an adventure. You can connect with her on Facebook right here and Twitter right here.