• This term “organic” is used quite a bit, but in a lot of the time I find that people are not using it correctly, leading me to think that people don’t even really know what this term means.

    Let’s define the term and its many meanings; what it is and what it isn’t.

    Organic: relating to or derived from living matter; relating to or denoting compounds containing carbon and of biological origin. Or, more simply, any compound containing carbon.

    In chemistry, when we are referring to the term “organic” we are referring to something that is carbon based – the substance has carbon. It is that simple. Does it have carbon in it? Yes = organic. No = inorganic.

    So, some of us science nerds will joke that our entire diet is “organic” because ALL the food we eat is carbon based. That’s a fact. Carbohydrates, protein, fat, and vitamins are organic nutrients because they all have carbon. Minerals and water don’t have carbon, therefore, not organic. That is what we refer to as organic substances in the science world with regard to biology, chemistry, and nutrition.

    Now most people don’t even know this part of the definition of organic, but to those of us who do, this other part is very amusing.

    Organic: (relating to food or farming methods) produced or involving production without the use of most synthetic substances, including fertilizers and pesticides.

    Organic Label
    Organic does not indicate the “healthfulness” of food, only how it is grown or raised.

    This is how most people are using the term “organic”. But even then, I encounter many people do not completely understand the term. This definition of “organic” only refers to how the plant or livestock was grown, fed or cared for. It does not refer to the nutritional value of the food or whether or not that food is healthy.

    Those who produce/grow organic foods also have to go through a long certification process. To be a certified “organic” farm, there is a certification process which includes a lot of paperwork, inspections, a certifying agent and so much more. According to US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service, there are “five basic steps to organic certification.” This is a government agency, so the term “basic” is used loosely.

    There may be “five basic steps”, but each is complex and time-consuming. The farm has to be in the practice of being organic as well as certifying that the land has not had any banned chemicals, banned pesticides and that the land hasn’t been used improperly in the last three years. A certifying agent is required, fees have to be paid, inspections of the facility happen, paperwork is reviewed – and even then, there is more to the process. It is a process that takes several years. And, it is not a “one-and-done” but requires annual recertification.

    If you have a small operation, this can truly be cost prohibitive.

    But here is an important point: a lot of food, especially the food grown by your “local” farmer may be grown organically but are not certified organic. Take, for example, the fruit my neighbors share with me. I get apples, peaches, plums and apricots from my neighbors in the late summer. I live in a regular suburban neighborhood in which several neighbors have planted fruit trees.

    From my observation, my neighbors just let the trees grow and they don’t use anything on it. I have friends that do cover their peach tree with netting to keep the birds away but have never “sprayed” or done anything to their tree other than water it. I have lived in my current home for fifteen years and within the same one-mile radius for almost 25 years. Before the houses here were built in my current housing development, it was a field. This is the point to the fact that the soil hasn’t had any other “prohibited” substances used on it for more than three years. So, the apples, peaches, plums, and apricots are all organically grown, but it are not certified organic because nobody’s gone through the process, a very expensive and cumbersome process, of getting it certified. And mostly I don’t care, I’ll eat apples, peaches, plums and apricots from my neighbor’s trees, no big deal.

    Here is the bottom line:

    • Organic is a chemistry term referring to carbon-based.
    • When using the term by the general public it is only related to how it is grown or raised.
    • Because something is not labeled organic doesn’t mean that something is not organically grown.
    • Just because it’s “organic” does not make it a healthier product.
    • There’s lots of junk food that has organic ingredients in it. That doesn’t make it healthier.

    If you have questions about this because there’s a lot of nuances with regard to this, reach out and ask me. I’m not knocking organically grown food, I’m just saying be clear on what it actually means.