Markets working to support sustainable development

USDA Organic

 The National Organic Program (NOP) details both production and labelling standards for 'organic' products produced and sold in the USA. Agricultural products labelled as organic must originate from farms or handling operations certified by a USDA accredited entity (State or private).

Production Standards - Crops raised without:

  • Using most conventional pesticides
  • Petroleum based fertilisers
  • Sewage-sludge based fertilisers
  • Animals raised as organic must be:
  • Fed organic feed
  • Given access to the outdoors
  • Given no antibiotics or growth hormones

“As a general rule, all natural (non-synthetic) substances are allowed in organic production and all synthetic substances are prohibited” (USDA, 2008) There is a list of substances that are allowed and prohibited to highlight exceptions to the rule. 

As part of the certification process there are components on record keeping, practices and substances used in production and on practices to prevent mixing of organic and non-organic products.

Labelling Standards

  • Products labelled ‘100% organic’ must contain only organically produced ingredients
  • Products labelled ‘Organic’ must consist of at least 95% organically produced ingredients.
  • Only ‘100% organic’ and ‘organic’ can display the USDA organic seal.  
Market coverage: 

According to a recent USDA 10-year document, by Jan 2012, there were 17,281 organic farms and processing facilitties in the US, fueling a $31.4 billion dollar industry. Across the world there are 28,000 USDA-certified operations, from 133 countries. The greatest proportion of organic operations can be found in California, Iowa and New England.

Background information: 

As a result of Congress passing the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) in 1990, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was required to develop national standards for organically produced agricultural products. The NOP is a marketing program housed within the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service and was enacted in 2002. Neither the OFPA nor the NOP regulations address food safety or nutrition.

Notable information: 

Regulatory instrument too - Civil penalty of up to $11,000 for each offense can be levied on any one who knowingly sells or labels a product as organic when it is in fact not.

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