Currently, the European Union, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan and many other countries require producers to obtain special certification in order to market food as organic within their borders. In the context of these regulations, organic food is food produced in a way that complies with organic standards set by national governments and international organizations. Although the produce of kitchen gardens may be organic, selling food with the organic label is regulated by governmental food safety authorities, such as the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) or European Commission. While the organic standard is defined differently in different jurisdictions, in general organic farming responds to site-specific farming and crop conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers are not allowed, although certain organically approved pesticides may be used under limited conditions. In general, organic foods are also not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or synthetic food additives.
Organic food production is a self-regulated industry with government oversight in some countries, distinct from private gardening. Currently, the European Union, the United States, Canada, Japan and many other countries require producers to obtain special certification based on government-defined standards in order to market food as organic within their borders. In the context of these regulations, foods marketed as organic are produced in a way that complies with organic standards set by national governments and international organic industry trade organizations. In the United States, organic production is a system that is managed in accordance with the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990 and regulations in Title 7, Part 205 of the Code of Federal Regulations to respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. If livestock are involved, the livestock must be reared with regular access to pasture and without the routine use of antibiotics or growth hormones.
Processed organic food usually contains only organic ingredients. If non-organic ingredients are present, at least a certain percentage of the food’s total plant and animal ingredients must be organic (95% in the United States, Canada, and Australia). Foods claiming to be organic must be free of artificial food additives, and are often processed with fewer artificial methods, materials and conditions, such as chemical ripening, food irradiation, and genetically modified ingredients. Pesticides are allowed as long as they are not synthetic. However, under US federal organic standards, if pests and weeds are not controllable through management practices, nor via organic pesticides and herbicides, “a substance included on the National List of synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production may be applied to prevent, suppress, or control pests, weeds, or diseases.” Several groups have called for organic standards to prohibit nanotechnology on the basis of the precautionary principle in light of unknown risks of nanotechnology. The use of nanotechnology-based products in the production of organic food is prohibited in some jurisdictions (Canada, the UK, and Australia) and is unregulated in others.