Organic Foods Defined – More Than Natural

In our natural foods article, we looked at “natural foods” and discovered that the quality and production methods of natural foods were left completely to the food producer’s discretion. Natural foods can mean almost anything. But “organic” is a term that is clearly defined and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Here are some quick definitions for the term “organic food” in crop production and livestock:


  • Land must have no prohibited substances applied to it for at least three years before the harvest of an organic crop.
  • Use of genetic engineering, irradiation and sewage sludge is prohibited.>
  • Soil fertility and crop nutrients must be managed through tillage and cultivation, supplemented with animal and crop waste materials and allowed synthetic materials.
  • Preference must be given to use of organic seeds and other plant stock, but a farmer can use non-organic seeds and plant stock under certain conditions.
  • Crop pests, weeds and diseases must be controlled primarily through management practices including physical, mechanical and biological controls. When these practices are not sufficient, a biological, botanical or synthetic substance from a specific list of approved synthetics may be used.


  • Antibiotics and synthetic hormones are prohibited.
  • 100% organic-feed is required with some vitamins allowed.
  • Animals for slaughter must be raised organically from birth, or no later than the second day of life for poultry.
  • Vaccines are allowed.
  • Access to outdoors, including access to pastures for ruminants, is required. Animals can be temporarily confined only for reasons of health, safety or to protect soil or water quality.
  • Withholding treatment from sick animals is prohibited; animals treated with prohibited medication (e.g., antibiotics) must be removed from the organic operation.

Regulations quoted from “Dairy Foods,” Jan, 2001, by Donna Berry.

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