The term "organic" refers to products produced without using most conventional pesticides and fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones and are fed by organic feed.
The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) is an umbrella organization of the organic agriculture movement founded in 1972 with approximately 750 member organizations in 100 countries around the world. IFOAM provides a market guarantee for integrity of organic claims. The Organic Guarantee System (OGS) unites the organic world through a common system of standards, verification and market identity. IFOAM's Organic Guarantee System is designed to facilitate the development of quality organic standards and third-party certification worldwide, and to provide an international guarantee of these standards and certification.
Visit the "Organic Guarantee System" web page for more information.
IFOAM > About IFOAM > Standards and Certification > Organic Guarantee System
Also see the directory of participating international companies, Including those in the US.
The Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the governmental certifying body for organic food in the U.S. Its efforts are guided by National Organic Standards Board, a nongovernmental group that includes consumer advocates, farmers, and food processors. To learn about organic certification and the organic label, visit the USDA’s consumer information page.
USDA > Agencies & Offices > Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) > National Organic Program
While there is just one USDA organic label, the criteria for certification varies for certain products, particularly processed foods. For example, 5% of the ingredients in food labeled "organic" and 30% in "made with organic ingredients" may be non-organic (the non-organic ingredients must come from the USDA’s approved list). For a product to be completely organically grown the label must read "100% organic."
In the past few years, The National Organic Standard Board's authority and the organic standards have been facing challenges to weaken the certification standards. The pressure comes from big businesses that want to get into the rapidly growing market but do not want to absorb the higher costs of organic production. For example, some businesses have lobbied for an exemption that would have allowed for the use of regular feed (which can contain heavy metals, pesticides, and animal byproducts) when organic feed is in short supply. Had this exemption passed it would not have required any disclosure of nonorganic feed use to the consumer. This exemption was repealed after consumers and organic producers protested, but the fight to maintain the integrity of organic labeling continues.