For fruits, vegetables, and meats to be labeled organic by the United States Depart-ment of Agriculture (USDA), organic farmers must meet strict guidelines, and to meet these guidelines there are certain things they cannot do. For instance, they cannot apply chemical fertilizers, spray with any pesticides—insecticides, fungicides, or herbicides—on organic crops, and they cannot give antibiotics, growth hormones, or medications to animals.
So how do organic farmers produce healthy food? Well, to control weeds and pests, organic farmers use natural fertilizers and traps. They grow host plants that attract beneficial birds and predatory insects, and they implement preventative measures, such as growing disease resistant plants, introducing crop rotation, and using organic sprays before diseases become established. In addition, organic farmers feed their animals only organically grown food, and they prevent their animals from getting sick by allowing them fresh air and plenty of room to grow, which means their animals don’t need antibiotics or other medications.
You can tell organic grown products from non-organic grown products by the label affixed to them. If they are organic they carry an organic label, as shown to the left. Additionally, any organic producer who sells over $5,000 in agricultural products a year must be certified by the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) to bear the organic seal. Although the seal is optional, most organic products that are 95 to 100 percent organic—such as fruits, vegetables, or eggs—carry the label.