Organic: Tell Me What It All Means
Organic: Tell Me What It All MeansWhile there can be confusion about what constitutes an organic body wash or lipstick, when it comes to food items and agricultural materials the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has set specific criteria. At Naturepedic, we use USDA certified organic cotton. Ever wonder what that means?
For cotton (or an apple or melon, for that matter) to be called organic and display the familiar USDA organic circle logo it must meet specific standards. For example, land must have had no prohibited substances applied to it for at least 3 years before harvest. Also, genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, synthetic fertilizers and sewage sludge are prohibited. Believe it or not, sewage sludge is often used in commercial farming, even on food items. If available, operations must use organic seeds.
Crops must use approved methods such as crop rotations and cover crops. Pests should be primarily controlled through management practices including biological controls, like ladybugs. When these methods fail, only substances on an approved list can be used.
Hopefully you won’t be eating cotton, but if you’re eating beef or chicken or other organic meats, to be USDA certified organic the animals must not have been given hormones to promote growth or antibiotics for any reason. Also, they must have been fed 100% organic feed products, although vitamin and mineral supplements are allowed.
For dairy animals, they must be managed organically for a minimum of 12 months in order for milk or dairy products to be sold, labeled or represented as organic – six months just isn’t going to cut it. Whether for meat or dairy, all organic livestock must have access to the outdoors year-round. (Actually, that’s not a bad plan for children, either.)
Organic agricultural products must also meet specific rules in handling and shipping, mainly to make sure they don’t get mixed in with non-organic products that likely look exactly the same. If non-organic ingredients are used, they must be approved.
There are other guidelines, also, but these are the main ones.
Organic Acronym Quiz
You probably knew USDA stood for United States Department of Agriculture. Some of you might know that NOP stands for National Organic Program. But do you know what AMS stands for? The AMS is the agency arm of the USDA that manages the NOP.