We all want to eat more “organic” right? And something we realized was that it is much more confusing than you might think. So we've decided to blog about it!
First, let's look at what the USDA defines as organic for crops.
Land must have had no prohibited substances applied to it for at least 3 years before the harvest of an organic crop.
Soil fertility and crop nutrients will be managed through tillage and cultivation practices, crop rotations, and cover crops, supplemented with animal and crop waste materials and allowed synthetic materials.
Crop pests, weeds, and diseases will be controlled primarily through management practices including physical, mechanical, and biological controls. When these practices
are not sufficient, a biological, botanical, or synthetic substance approved for use on the National List may be used.
Operations must use organic seeds and other planting stock when available.
The use of genetic engineering, ionizing radiation and sewage sludge is prohibited.USDA
All that essentially boils down to is that organic foods are not supposed to have anything synthetic; as you may have noticed, expressions such as allowed synthetic chemicals and, when available, may provide wiggle room for individual farms that wish to become certified. All this has aroused debate in the media over the certification process that prominent business executives are responsible for maintaining, in turn creating barriers to entry for young farming entrepreneurs.
The catch with the organic certification process is that it is often too expensive for small farmers to try and become certified. Small farmers may be reluctant to take up organic practices because they cannot put the “USDA Organic” label on their foods. In the farming community, this is a problematic issue because farmers who are growing things organically are often unable to promote that because they can't afford the process of becoming official. Louisiana's last certifier gave up that status just this year. The method may involve flying someone from Oregon to check out your operation.
Another twist is that although hydroponic growing can be more sustainable than traditional agriculture, the process by which organic fertilizers interact with plants often requires soil. Therefore, to develop a genuinely organic fertilizer would have to be highly refined, water-soluble, and non-clogging.
If you are a wise consumer and want to know what your plants ate before you eat them, ask the folks in the farmers market or research the brands you buy. There are tons of articles (a few listed below) with more info on what this means for you.