The word 'organic' is blasted all over the media, our food packaging, cosmetics and more. The problem is, there's not much information around to answer the question "what does organic mean?" And can we really trust the labels on our products?
The Dictionary Definition Of Organic
The easiest place to start finding a trustworthy definition is with the dictionary. The website Dictionary.com describes organic as:
"11. pertaining to, involving, or grown with fertilizers or pesticides of animal or vegetable origin, as distinguished from manufactured chemicals: organic farming; organic fruits. […]"
There were 14 points in that dictionary definition, and only at point 11 do we get some idea of what 'organic' might mean for our food, clothing and household products.
What Does Organic Mean In Simple Terms?
When we hear the word organic in relation to the products we buy, it's usually linked to organic farming methods. It means that chemicals have not been used to fertilize the crops (or as pesticides). It also means that the land used to grow crops is farmed organically.
The word organic also means that animals used for meat have to be kept completely organically: they can't be injected with any kind of growth hormones or antibiotics, and must be fed organic feed.
In general, organic is to do with farming methods rather than animal welfare. It's important to bear this in mind when you make any ethical decisions about the food you want to eat.
There are strict standards regarding which products can label themselves as "organic". The USDA defines three levels of organic produce:
1) Products made completely from organic ingredients and methods may be labeled "100% organic" and display the USDA seal.
2) Products with at least 95% organic ingredients can use the label "organic" and display the seal.
3) Products containing at least 70% organic ingredients can be labeled "made with organic ingredients".
(Full information can be found on the USDA website.)
Manufacturers who wrongly label their product as organic can be fined up to $11,000 for each violation. Note that every country has its own laws regarding the use of the term organic, and some may not regulate it so strictly.
Don't Let Manufacturers Mislead You
Although there are regulations in place, at least in certain countries, over the use of the term organic on labelling, it can still be misleading. For example, organic doesn't necessarily mean that the products are locally grown, or that the food is more nutritious (though there is evidence to suggest that avoiding the ingestion of chemical pesticides/ fertilizers is better for our health).
Similarly, don't be misled by terms such as "natural" or "healthy" - these don't come with strict standards like the term "organic". In short, they mean absolutely nothing. A "natural" beauty product could still be full of harmful chemicals.
It isn't always easy to know what's good for our health or the environment, but asking questions like "what does organic mean?" will definitely set you off in the right direction.
At Vegan Zing, we care about your health and your being. Check out the many products that support being vegan at Vegan Zing here!