Dietitian Fast Facts: Organic

You most likely see the label “organic” on every trip you take to the grocery store. But do you know what it really means? Here’s the scoop!

  • Labeling a food organic refers to the actual farming methods used to grow the food, not any specific component of the food itself or level of any nutrient within the food.
  • When a product is labeled as USDA organic, it means it was produced through approved farming and production methods that emphasize cycling of resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity.
  • USDA organic standards don’t allow the use of irradiation, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
  • While it can’t be said that organic crops are raised without pesticides, only pesticides approved per USDA standards may be used. Organic farming often relies on non-traditional methods of pest control, including planting trap crops, using insect pheromones or even using non-harmful insects to control plant-eating pests.
  • For livestock, the USDA organic seal verifies that producers met animal health and welfare standards, did not use antibiotics or growth hormones, provided 100% organic feed and ensured that animals were given access to the outdoors at specific levels.

Keep in mind that organic farming is not one-size-fits all, and most farmers use a combination of approved methods and techniques to support the successful growth of their unique crops.

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