Organic Foods Defined

Featured Article, Healthy, How-To, Recipes
on July 13, 2011
Organic Vegetables

Unless you've been living-and eating-under a rock, you're familiar with the term "organic." The surrounding confusion, however, makes it worth revisiting.

  • Organic crops are grown without the use of synthetic (often petro-based) fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. They cannot be genetically modified, irradiated or fertilized with sewage sludge.
  • Organic milk comes from animals fed an organic diet and not treated with hormones (to stimulate artificially high levels of milk production) or antibiotics (to combat infections caused by hormone use).
  • Organic meat animals are fed organically and are not given hormones or antibiotics.
  • Processed foods are classified by content: "100 Percent Organic," "Organic" (at least 94 percent organic) and "Made with Organic Ingredients" (at least 74 percent organic).
  • To be certified, producers must keep extensive records and are subjected to unannounced inspections. If a product bears the Certified Organic seal, it probably lives up to its name. But not all organics wear the label; many small farms employ organic methods but can't afford certification.

The Dirty Dozen
Organic produce can be more expensive than conventionally grown produce. Consider starting with the "dirty dozen"—items that, when conventionally grown, have the highest concentrations of pesticides: peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, lettuce, imported grapes, pears, spinach and potatoes.
—Source: Environmental Working Group

—By Jo Marshall, a food writer in Deephaven, Minn.