What Does “Organic” Mean?

By Francis Thicke, Local Futures

The organic food movement suffered a major setback recently, when the US National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) voted in favor of allowing hydroponically-grown products to receive the “organic” label. This decision should not have come as a surprise to those who have watched the organic movement steadily taken over by big agribusiness – a process that began in 1990 when Congress required the USDA to create a single set of national standards that would define the meaning of “organic”. Previously, “organic” meant striving for a healthy relationship among farmers, farm animals, consumers, and the natural world – with soil-building seen as central to the long-term health of agriculture. Organic farms were certified by statewide or regional organizations using locally-defined standards, with the understanding that food production was necessarily diverse – reflecting local climates, soils, wildlife, pests, and so on. A one-size-fits-all national standard wasn’t needed to protect consumers who purchased food...

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