Organic Food Standards and Labeling
Organic production has been practiced in the United States since the late 1940s. From that time, the industry has grown from experimental garden plots to commercial farms with products to sell under a special "organic" label. Food manufacturers have developed organic processed products and many retail marketing chains specialize in the sale of organic products. This growth stimulated a need for verification that products are indeed produced according to certain standards. Thus, the organic certification industry also evolved. By the late 1980's, after an attempt to develop a consensus of production and certification standards, the organic industry petitioned Congress to draft an Organic Food Production Act (OFPA) to define "organic".
Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) in 1990. The OFPA required the USDA to develop national standards for organically produced agricultural products to assure consumers that agricultural products marketed as organic meet consistent, uniform standards. The OFPA and the National Organic Program (NOP) regulations require that agricultural products labeled as organic originate from farms or handling operations certified by a State or private entity that has been accredited by the USDA.
The NOP developed national organic standards and established an organic certification program based on recommendations of the 15-member National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The NOSB is appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture and is comprised of representatives from the following categories: farmer/growers; handler/processors; retailers; consumers/public interest groups; environmentalists; scientists; and certifying agents.
In addition to considering NOSB recommendations, USDA reviewed state, private and foreign organic certification programs to help formulate these regulations. The NOP regulations are flexible enough to accommodate the wide range of operations and products grown and raised in every region of the United States.
For more information on the organic seal and standard and organic products, please visit: