The definition of "organic" by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB):
Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.
Organic farmers don't use any synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. They try to work in harmony with natural systems and pay attention to the soil, water supply, wildlife, insects and people.
Organic farmers don't use synthetic pesticides and try to avoid using any pesticides. They use prevention as a strategy for weed, insect and disease control. By keeping their soils healthy and by choosing plants that are well-adapted for the climate, they grow plants that are better able to resist disease and insects.
To fight off pest populations that are out of balance, organic farmers use options like insect predators, traps, barriers or mating disruption. If these options don't work they will sometimes use an organic pesticide. Organic pesticides are pesticides that come from natural sources, usually plants or minerals. Most of these pesticides are also toxic however and have to be used with care. Even if a pesticide is nontoxic to people, it may be very toxic to certain animals.
Organic products contain much lower levels of pesticide residues, but are not completely free of them either. Even though organic products are grown and handled without chemicals, they are inadvertently exposed to chemicals that are now pervasive in the groundwater and rain due to their overuse in the past and the drift via wind and rain.
Organic farmers use organic fertilizers, including manure, compost and fish, bone or blood meal. These fertilizers are lower in nutrients than synthetic fertilizers and take more effort to apply. They are also slow-release, because they must decompose before the nutrients are released.
Unlike synthetic fertilizers, organic fertilizers improve the condition of the soil. They make the soil more porous, which gives it better water storage and drainage. They improve the storage of nutrients, reducing the rate at which nutrients leach into the waterways. They also provide micro-nutrients needed for plant growth and used as food for earthworms and other organisms in the soil.
Another method organic producers use to improve soil fertility is crop rotation.
Organic farming often includes animal products like fish, bone or blood meal. Vegan-organic gardening (or veganic gardening) only uses vegan methods, like plant-based fertilizers. You can find out more about vegan-organic gardening in the article Vegan-Organic Gardening by M. Butterflies Katz of Gentle World.
Products that are marked "certified organic" are produced using techniques in compliance with the standards of a certifying organization. To be allowed to call its products "certified organic", a farm must have been using the standards for at least 3 years.
Products that are marked "transitional" have been produced using techniques in compliance with the standards of the certifying organization for at least one year, but less than the 3 years that are required to be allowed to call the products "certified organic".
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Copyright © 2004 by Wanda Embar. All Rights