News from CRIS: Trending - Organic Foods

July 14, 2022

What is organic food?

For the purposes of this post, we will focus on the definition used but the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the USDA organic certification requirements.

Organic refers to the methods employed to grow foods and raise animals. Typically, farmers can only use naturally-derived substances to cultivate crops. Farmers may only feed animals organic feed and forage and do not administer antibiotics or hormone treatments to animals. 

Is the term “organic” regulated?

In the US, the term “USDA organic” is regulated by the USDA and must meet USDA requirements to use the label. 

How are organically grown foods different than conventionally grown foods?

Organically grown food will primarily rely on preventative practices and crop rotation to help maintain soil fertility and manage pests, weeds, and diseases.

Organic produce should use organic seeds. However, conventionally grown seeds are allowed if organic isn’t available. 

If preventative measures do not work, farmers can use plant-derived agrochemicals such as pesticides and insecticides. Occasionally, farmers may also use approved synthetic agrochemicals. 

While conventional agricultural practices involve many preventative methods, farmers are permitted to use synthetically derived agrochemicals to ensure crops survive. 

As a result, we lose less conventionally grown produce to blight than organically grown produce.  

Does organic produce use pesticides in the growing process?

Organic farming primarily relies  on naturally-derived pesticides and some synthetically-derived products like pheromones and other farming practices like crop rotation and limiting monoculture to protect crops (1,2).

Is there pesticide residue on organic produce? 

Yes, there will often be pesticide residue on organic produce. 


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