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Organic tomatoes
Organic tomatoes

The organic movement broadly refers to the organizations and individuals involved worldwide in the promotion of organic food and other organic products. It started during the first half of the 20th century, when modern large-scale agricultural practices began to appear.[citation needed]


An organic product can broadly be described as not containing toxic chemicals (including synthetic pesticides, arsenic-containing herbicides, fertilization biosolids, chemical food additives, antibiotics, synthetic hormones, and industrial solvents). In addition to the absence of artificial chemicals, "organic" means not genetically engineered, and having not used ionizing irradiation,[1] which can cause free-radicals and the removal of vitamins.[citation needed] For example, USDA organic restricts against such things, including genetic engineering in products or in the products' animal feed,[2][3][4] and automatically allows the use of "Non-GMO" labelling similar to The Non-GMO Project.[5]

In the United Kingdom, the term used with food is natural food.[6]


Main article: History of organic farming


The organic movement began in the early 1900s in response to the shift towards synthetic nitrogen fertilizers and pesticides in the early days of industrial agriculture. A relatively small group of farmers came together in various associations: Demeter International of Germany, which encouraged biodynamic farming and began the first certification program, the Australian Organic Farming and Gardening Society,[7] the Soil Association of the United Kingdom, and Rodale, Inc. in the United States, along with others. In 1972, these organizations joined to form the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). In recent years, environmental awareness has driven demand and conversion to organic farming. Some governments, including the European Union, have begun to support organic farming through agricultural subsidy reform. Organic production and marketing have grown at a fast pace.

Historians consider Albert Howard, Viscount Lymington, Robert McCarrison, Edgar J. Saxon and Frank Newman Turner as pioneers of the organic movement in Britain,[8][9][10] and the term "organic farming" was coined by Lord Northbourne in 1940.[11]

Today, organic foods stores have captured a significant share of the grocery shopping market, specifically, Whole Foods Market, Wild Oats, Trader joe's and others.


Organic food

Organic produce at a farmers' market in Argentina
Organic produce at a farmers' market in Argentina

Organic food, ecological food or biological food are food and drinks produced by methods complying with the standards of organic farming. Standards vary worldwide, but organic farming features practices that cycle resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Organizations regulating organic products may restrict the use of certain pesticides and fertilizers in the farming methods used to produce such products. Organic foods typically are not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or synthetic food additives.[14]

In the 21st century, the European Union, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan, and many other countries require producers to obtain special certification to market their food as organic. Although the produce of kitchen gardens may actually be organic, selling food with an organic label is regulated by governmental food safety authorities, such as the National Organic Program of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)[15] or European Commission (EC).[16]

From an environmental perspective, fertilizing, overproduction, and the use of pesticides in conventional farming may negatively affect ecosystems, soil health,[17][18] biodiversity, groundwater, and drinking water supplies. These environmental and health issues are intended to be minimized or avoided in organic farming.[19]

Demand for organic foods is primarily driven by consumer concerns for personal health and the environment, such as about the detrimental environmental impacts of pesticides.[20] From the perspective of science and consumers, there is insufficient evidence in the scientific and medical literature to support claims that organic food is either substantially safer or healthier to eat than conventional food.[20]

Organic agriculture has higher production costs and lower yields, higher labor costs, and higher consumer prices as compared to conventional farming methods.

Organic companies

The recent interest in the organic industry has sparked the interest of many businesses from small local distributors to large companies that distribute many products nationally. The organic market is now a 13 billion dollar a year industry, that continues to grow especially from large corporations such as Wal-Mart that are now offering organic choices to their customers.[21] Other companies that offer organic options include General Mills and Kraft. Some large companies have bought smaller already established organic companies such as Earth’s Best, Rice Dream soy milk, Garden of Eatin', Celestial Seasonings and Health Valley. When larger companies buy smaller companies it is called stealth ownership.[22]

Organic cosmetics

Organic cosmetics are products that are made with organic ingredients that were produced without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers.

The FDA does not have a definition of “Organic” in terms of organic cosmetics. FDA regulates cosmetics under the authority of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA).

The USDA (the U.S. Department of Agriculture) requirements for the use of the term “organic” are separate from the laws and regulations that FDA applies for cosmetics. For more information on "organic" labeling for cosmetics, see the NOP publication, "Cosmetics, Body Care Products, and Personal Care Products." Cosmetic products labeled with “organic” must follow both USDA regulations and FDA regulations of organic claims for labeling and safety requirements for cosmetics.

The Agricultural Marketing Service of USDA supervises the National Organic Program (NOP). The NOP regulations have the definition of “organic” and provide certification for agricultural ingredients if they have been produced under conditions that would meet the definition. Moreover, the regulations also include labeling standards based on the percentage of organic ingredients in every product.[23]

The COSMetic Organic and Natural Standard (COSMOS) sets certification requirements for organic and natural cosmetics products in Europe.[24]

Organic farming

Vegetables from ecological farming
Vegetables from ecological farming

Organic farming, in the European Union more commonly known as ecological farming or biological farming,[25] is an agricultural system that uses fertilizers of organic origin such as compost manure, green manure, and bone meal and places emphasis on techniques such as crop rotation and companion planting. It originated early in the 20th century in reaction to rapidly changing farming practices. Certified organic agriculture accounts for 70 million hectares globally, with over half of that total in Australia.[26] Organic farming continues to be developed by various organizations today. Biological pest control, mixed cropping and the fostering of insect predators are encouraged. Organic standards are designed to allow the use of naturally-occurring substances while prohibiting or strictly limiting synthetic substances.[27] For instance, naturally-occurring pesticides such as pyrethrin are permitted, while synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are generally prohibited. Synthetic substances that are allowed include, for example, copper sulfate, elemental sulfur and Ivermectin. Genetically modified organisms, nanomaterials, human sewage sludge, plant growth regulators, hormones, and antibiotic use in livestock husbandry are prohibited.[28][29] Organic farming advocates claim advantages in sustainability,[30][31] openness, self-sufficiency, autonomy and independence,[31] health, food security, and food safety.

Organic agricultural methods are internationally regulated and legally enforced by many nations, based in large part on the standards set by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), an international umbrella organization for organic farming organizations established in 1972.[32] Organic agriculture can be defined as "an integrated farming system that strives for sustainability, the enhancement of soil fertility and biological diversity while, with rare exceptions, prohibiting synthetic pesticides, antibiotics, synthetic fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, and growth hormones".[33][34][35][36]

Since 1990, the market for organic food and other products has grown rapidly, reaching $63 billion worldwide in 2012.[37]: 25  This demand has driven a similar increase in organically-managed farmland that grew from 2001 to 2011 at a compounding rate of 8.9% per annum.[38]

As of 2020, approximately 75,000,000 hectares (190,000,000 acres) worldwide were farmed organically, representing approximately 1.6% of total world farmland.[39]

Organic landscaping

Organic landscaping or organic lawn management is a form of landscaping that relies on organic land management techniques such as mowing high, proper watering, use of compost, soil amendments and organic pest control. In the late 20th century, a movement to manage lawns organically began to grow. Activists in a number of U.S. cities have pushed local governments to require organic landscaping. Many small properties around the world are managed organically, but some locations require organic land care.[40]


There have been multiple criticisms regarding organic food and organic marketing practices. Scientists at the University of Washington did a test of the urine of children who are on organic food diets and children who are on conventional food diets. The result was children on organic food diets ‘ urine had a median level of pesticide byproducts only one-sixth of children on conventional food diets. However, at the same time French, British and Swedish government food agencies have all concluded that there was no scientific proof that organic food is safer or has more nutrition than conventional foods.[41]

A 2014 study by a non-profit academic think tank alleged consumers are "routinely deceived" by intentional and endemic misleading health claims in organic marketing.[42] Organic products typically cost 10% to 40% more than similar conventionally produced products.[43] According to the UK's Food Standards Agency, "Consumers may choose to buy organic fruit, vegetables and meat because they believe them to be more nutritious than other food. However, the balance of current scientific evidence does not support this view."[44] A 12-month systematic review commissioned by the FSA in 2009 and conducted at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine based on 50 years' worth of collected evidence concluded that "there is no good evidence that consumption of organic food is beneficial to health in relation to nutrient content."[45] Although the source of the organic movement was small family farms, large corporations have started distributing more organic products and certain categories of organic foods, such as milk, have been reported by Michael Pollan to be highly concentrated and predominantly sourced to mega-farms.[46]

See also


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