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Organic Standards

Certified organic foods are produced according to federal standards set by the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP). These regulations describe the specific standards required to use the word “organic” or the USDA organic seal. Under the federal organic standards, agricultural products labeled “100% organic, "organic," and “made with organic (specified ingredient(s))” must be certified by a USDA accredited certifying agent and comply with the U.S. organic laws and regulations.

The organic regulations developed from the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), were implemented in 2002. Prior to 2002, private and State agencies certified organic practices, but there was no uniformity in standards and therefore no guarantee that "organic" meant the same thing from state to state, or even locally from certifier to certifier. National standards for organic products were desired by both producers and consumers to clear up confusion in the marketplace and to protect against mislabeling or fraud.

OFPA created the U. S. National Organic Standards. The Act authorized a new USDA National Organic Program (NOP) to set national standards for the production, handling, and processing of organically grown agricultural products. USDA NOP is authorized to enforce OFPA. In addition, the Program oversees mandatory certification of organic production. The Act also established the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), which advises the Secretary of Agriculture in setting the standards upon which the NOP is based. Producers who meet NOP standards may label their products as “USDA Certified Organic.”

The USDA organic regulations describe the specific requirements that must be verified by a USDA-accredited certifying agent before agricultural products can be labeled as organic. Overall, organic operations must demonstrate that they are protecting natural resources, conserving biodiversity, and using only approved crop, livestock and processing inputs. The use of genetic engineering (GMOs), ionizing radiation, sewage sludge and most synthetic pesticides and fertilizers is prohibited from organic production.

Read the Organic Foods Production Act              Learn more about the National Organic Program             Learn about how the organic standards are overseen

Scott Rice

Sr. Director, Regulatory Affairs

(202) 695-1268