Illuminating organic | January 25, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

- January 25, 2008

Illuminating organic

Shining light on a cloudy subject

Organic products are becoming an important part of a healthy lifestyle, recent studies show. A Newcastle University study sponsored by the European Union and several food companies shows that organic foods provide increased health benefits. The study concluded that eating organic food in place of conventionally farmed food was the equivalent of eating an extra portion of fruit and vegetables every day.

It's no wonder that worldwide retail sales of organic food and personal care products have grown an annual average of 23 percent over the last 10 years. Additionally, consumer spending for natural and organic personal care products is expected to rise to $20 billion by 2009, according to a recent Datamonitor study.

But what do you look for when choosing organic products? How do you know something is truly organic? Here are a few simple tips:

Defining Organic

The term "organic" refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. Organic farmers and businesses seek to reduce or eliminate practices that harm soil life, deplete non-renewable resources or pose hazards to air and water quality.

"When you're using organic farming methods, you don't use synthetic herbicides, pesticides or other artificial chemicals," said organic farmer Cheryl Rogowski. "We find natural ways to help the crops grow like diversifying and carefully selecting our crop varieties, rotating crops each year to effectively hide them from insects, and using compost and green manure crops as fertilizer."

While the organic movement is most often associated with food products, its reach is much broader. It's showing up in a variety of areas including personal care products because of its many benefits.

Natural vs. Organic Products

Organic refers to items that are produced in accordance with stringent, approved methods. Organic products have ingredients that are grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, sewer sludge or genetically modified seeds. Natural products are those derived from natural ingredients like a plant source, which retain their natural properties in the finished product. All organic products are natural, but not all natural products are necessarily organic.

Regulating True Organic Products

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) certification and seal are the best way to know for sure that products truly are organic. Under the USDA regulations, personal care products labeled as "Organic" or "Certified Organic" must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients. Products labeled as "Made with Organic Ingredients" must contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients.

Beauty Product Regulations

So what are the regulatory differences for organic food and organic personal care products in the United States? According to USDA National Organic Program (NOP) standards, they are the same. The same guidelines a farmer has to follow to certify yogurt or cereal must be adhered to by companies trying to obtain the USDA certification and seal for personal care products.

The Certification Process

Since the seal has only been available since August 2005 for personal care products, there are very few products available that meet the USDA National Organic Program's (NOP) stringent standards. The USDA website says a Government-approved certifier must inspect the farms where ingredients in a product are grown to make sure the farmers are following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards before a product can be labeled "organic." Even the facilities where the products are made and packaged must follow rigorous USDA NOP regulations.

Finding Organic Products

Origins recently introduced a new collection called Origins Organics certified under USDA NOP standards. Origins Organics uses Certified Organic ingredients grown and harvested according to regulated organic farming methods. Six of the products have the USDA seal, which means they have at least 95 percent organic ingredients. The other three are "Made with Organic Ingredients" and have between 70 and 95 percent organic ingredients. These three are also certified by the USDA NOP. Organic products, including food, personal care, clothing, and others are becoming more widely available at major retail stores and smaller boutique stores. Remember to look for the USDA organic seal to know you are using something good for yourself and the environment.

For more information about organic food and farming, visit:

--Courtesy of ARAcontent