Contributed by: green-la.com
Organic foods are produced according to certain production standards. For crops, it means they were grown without the use of conventional pesticides, artificial fertilizers, human waste, or sewage sludge, and that they were processed without ionizing radiation or food additives. For animals, it means they were reared without the routine use of antibiotics and without the use of growth hormones. In most countries, organic produce must not be genetically modified. Increasingly, organic food production is legally regulated. Currently, the United States, the European Union, Japan and many other countries require producers to obtain organic certification in order to market food as organic. Historically, organic farms have been relatively small family-run farms — which is why organic food was once only available in small stores or farmers' markets. Now, organic foods are becoming much more widely available — organic food sales within the United States have grown by 17 to 20 percent a year for the past few years while sales of conventional food have grown at only about 2 to 3 percent a year. This large growth is predicted to continue, and many companies are jumping into the market.
Types of organic food:
Organic foods can be either fresh or processed, based on production methods.
Often, within the same supermarket, both organic and conventional versions of products are available, although the price of the organic version is usually higher (see modern developments). Most processed organic food comes from large food conglomerates producing and marketing products like canned goods, frozen vegetables, prepared dishes and other convenience foods.
Processed organic food usually contains only organic ingredients, or where there are a number of ingredients, at least a minimum percentage of the plant and animal ingredients must be organic (95% in Australia and the United States). Any non-organically produced ingredients must still meet requirements. It must be free of artificial food additives, and is often processed with fewer artificial methods, materials and conditions (no chemical ripening, no food irradiation, and no genetically modified ingredients, etc.).
They may also be required to be produced using energy-saving technologies and packaged using recyclable or biodegradable materials when possible.
Identifying organic food
At first, organic food consisted mainly of fresh vegetables. Early consumers interested in organic food would look for chemical-free, fresh or minimally processed food. They mostly had to buy directly from growers: "Know your farmer, know your food" was the motto. Personal definitions of what constituted "organic" were developed through firsthand experience: by talking to farmers, seeing farm conditions, and farming activities. Small farms grew vegetables (and raised livestock) using organic farming practices, with or without certification, and the individual consumer monitored. Consumer demand for organic foods continues to increase, and high volume sales through mass outlets, like supermarkets, are rapidly replacing the direct farmer connection. For supermarket consumers, food production is not easily observable, and product labelling, like "certified organic", is relied on. Government regulations and third-party inspectors are looked to for assurance.
A "certified organic" label is usually the only way for consumers to know that a processed product is "organic".