Organic vs. Non-Organic Labeling
Volume 2, Number 1
Antonio Jacobs, MS
More health and wellness conscious
consumers are expressing their concerns about the quality and
nutritional value of the food they consume. These health and
wellness conscious consumers have led to the development of
healthier food products.
Terms such as “Fat Free”, “Low carb”,
“Sugar Free”, and “Organic" are being used by the manufacturers and
produce suppliers to express the improved options and quality in
food and nutritional products. These and other nutrient claims must
meet specific FDA definitions that include the conditions under
which each term can be used.
Food and nutrition present many
different issues with respect to wellness and public health. These
terms are meant to express the improved options and quality in food
and nutritional products. Even savvy
consumers often misunderstand what the terms "Organic" and
"Organically Grown" mean. The use of the terms “Organic,”
"Organically Grown" vs. “Non-Organic” requires education of
consumers. These specific designations also work to protect the
nutritional needs of all consumers.
The principal guidelines for organic production are to use materials
and practices that enhance the ecological balance of natural systems
and that integrate the parts of the farming system into an
ecological whole. In 1995 the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)passed
the following definition of “Organic”:
“Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system
that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and
biological activity. It is based on minimal use of of
farm inputs and on management practices that restore,
maintain and enhance ecological harmony.”
As a labeling term on food labels, "USDA Organic" requires that at
least 95% of the product's ingredients have been grown and processed
according to USDA regulations defining the use of fertilizers,
herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, preservatives and other
chemical ingredients. It also denotes products produced under the
authority of the Organic Foods Production Act.
To maintain the quality, attractiveness and shelf life of food and
nutritional products, certain measures are
taken by the manufacturers and produce suppliers.
One major issue of debate is the use
of artificial fertilizer, growth regulators, and pesticides in the
production of produce. Consumers, healthcare professionals and
researchers have expressed concern regarding the potentially harmful
side effects these materials may produce on human health. For such
reasons many consumers purchase “organically”
grown and Manufactured Meats and Produce with the belief that these
products are healthier and less harmful.
Consequently, the demand for "organic"
products is growing. According to a statistical research conducted
by the USDA, the value of retail sales of organic foods in 2000 was
approximately $6 billion, and the number of organic farmers’
increases each year by about 12%.
The organic movement has gathered momentum over the past decade, but
a few basic, concerning questions still exist. "Are organic products
better for humans and the planet?" and especially “How safe are
According to Dennis Avery, a former
researcher for the Department of Agriculture, organic produce is
more likely to be infested with bacteria because it is fertilized
with animal excreta, which can contain pathogens. Additionally, the
use of growth-enhancing substances,
specifically antibiotics, to enhance growth of animals used as human
food is illegal in the United States. Antibiotic residue may persist
in the carcass of animals and affect antibiotic-sensitive
individuals that consume the product (Last, 1998). Finally, while
pesticides have been proven to have adverse side effects on human
health, their use is strictly regulated and enforced by inspectors
of conventional farmers. In fact, John Stossel’s story on Organic
Foods in 2000 stated that each year the CDC
reports 5,000 or more deaths in the United States as a result
of bacteria while no death can be attributed to pesticide poisoning.
Therefore the only the issues of more nutritional value and better
for the environment can be argued regarding the use of "organic"
vs "non-organic" foods. Regarding the
nutritional superiority of organic products, Katherine Di Matteo of
the Organic Trade Association (which represents organic growers and
retailers) states that “organic foods are as nutritious as any other
product on the Market. "
Regarding the issue of “healthier for
the environment,” Di Matteo claims organic farming is better because
it doesn’t require the use of chemicals. However, Dennis Avery, a
former researcher for the Department of Agriculture, states that
organic farmers waste more land and resources because they lose so
much of their crop to weeds and insects. Furthermore, if all farmers
worldwide were organic, more than ¾ of the world's
land area would be used for farming.
Many consumers, healthcare and wellness practitioners believe that
"organic" products are better than "non-organic" ones. It would seem
that the health and wellness conscious consumers and practitioners
alike must continue ongoing evaluation review and scientific
research of food, nutrition and health information before reaching
any final conclusions.
For More Information
Foods Production Act of 1990
Organic Trade Association
Ellis Hattie. Food Matters: Organic food.
Last, John, M, Ph.D. Public Health and
Appleton & Lange. Stanford, Connecticut. 1998. Pg. 200-21 5.
McAvoy, Susan. Glickman announces new Proposal for National Organic
USDA.gov. Release number: 0074.00.
Stossel, John. How Good is Organic Food? ABC News, Transcript number:
000707. July 7, 2000.