New USDA guidelines for the definition of what it means to be organic went into effect on Oct. 21,2002 creating a specific nationwide federal standard for how products that wish to be marketed as organic must be grown, processed or raised.
Prior to the USDA’s new statute, a product sold anywhere in the U.S. with as little as 1 percent of its ingredients comprised of organic material could claim to be an “organic” product to consumers. Now, any product imported from other countries or grown in the U.S. that wants to use the label organic must follow strictly worded guidelines and be free of conventional pesticides, GMOs and radiation.
To carry the USDA official organic stamp, the product must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients; animals whose meat is labeled as organic must be raised under organic management, with no growth hormones or antibiotics; organic meat, dairy, fish and poultry products must come from animals fed a 100 percent organic diet; and the land on which organic food or meat is raised must be free of sewage or petroleum-based fertilizers.
The new organic seal will appear stamped on the specific product or on display material around the product, and will indicate which part of the product is organic. If the product is not at least 95 percent organic, it may still be labeled “made with organic materials” if it contains at least 70 percent organic ingredients. If businesses market their products with the word “organic” without full compliance with the new USDA standards, they can be fined as much as $10,000.