Understand organic certification in food

Updated: Mar 23


"Organic" means a process in which food is produced by respecting the set boundaries by nature! The process that is in harmony with our environment and human systems.

When it comes to organic agriculture, it is a way of farming in which you respect the soil that is the very foundation and nutrient source for our crops to grow.





Modern Agriculture and its effects

In order to meet the food needs of the increasing population, Industrialization of agriculture started and due to lack of knowledge about how the ecosystem really works, agriculture became more mechanized by employing practices that are polluting our soil and water with harmful chemicals such as synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. All this is rendering the soil useless to further farm on them and in turn along with the environment we are exposing our human bodies to all these harmful chemicals, especially our children are exposed to it from such tender age!!

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization report mentions that we have only sixty harvests left before we run out of soil that can grow crops. If we don’t revert back to conventional organic farming that is in sync with the Ecosystem then by 2050 we will lose 1.5 million square kilometers of farmland which is equivalent to all the farmable land in India!! Organic farming will stop soil erosion and soil loss.

Hence if we really want to safeguard our Planet, "Our Home" and also our own health then we need to support organic and regenerative agriculture.

How to know if the mention of "Organic" is genuine?

The big question is the term "Organic" is misused quite often in order to attract more profits and commercialize a product. Hence it is very important to identify genuine organic products.


The World has realized the importance and urgency to safeguard our planet and human health from destruction and disease. Many countries worldwide have now strict standards to adhere to in order to cultivate food in organic ways without GMOs. So farms can get themselves certified as per these organic standards by authorized certifying companies. There are strict audits and continuous tracking for such standards hence we consumers can be assured it comes from organic cultivation. Organic cultivation is also generating job opportunities for many young small-scale farmers, helps reduce their exploitation, and definitely safeguards the health of our Farmers!! They are the ones who get healthy food to your table, we need to care for them!

So here in this blog, I am giving you a brief overview of how you can really identify if your food or product is authentically organic. We will go through the different certifications worldwide and how you can find genuine organic produce that may not be certified.


General thumb rules to identify organic food or crop is:

  1. The food packaging will bear an organic certification logo that represents the organic standards adhered to, during its cultivation or production as set by the country of its origin.

  2. Along with the logo, there should be the certification number mentioned which is very important to ensure it is certified organic and genuine.

  3. In the case of a food product as per most standards it is certified organic if 95% of its ingredients is organic. There might be slight variation in these proportions with different standards all over the world.

  4. It is very beneficial to be an informed customer and do a little research on the organic certification showcased on your regularly bought food package so you get the value for your money. Different countries have slightly different standards but the majority of the standards adhere to or are in conformity with the USDA standards or the EU standards.

  5. In the case of your fresh produce, it is best to choose to buy from local organic farms. Usually, organic farms are certified wherein they can show their certificate to you when asked for and if they are not certified, it is we as consumers to really have the in-depth knowledge of how organic farming is done and ask them enough questions to know their farming practices. It might get a little tricky here in case you are not well equipped with that knowledge.

  6. WE PAY PREMIUM CHARGES FOR ORGANIC FOOD WHICH DEFINITELY DESERVES THAT PRICE AS ORGANIC FARMING IS TIME INTENSIVE AND LABOR INTENSIVE BUT SO GENTLE AND HEALING FOR THE PLANET.

  7. Hence we can make a conscious decision in spending our money for the right reasons and for well being of all of us. Hence know what you buy so you don't get greenwashed by brands displaying their food to be organic. It does not mean that a particular product or food if not certified organic is not organic! Probably it is more genuine and organic but that should be decided or trusted only through how open the farmer or food supplier shares the methods of cultivation or preparation of food.

"Wellness is cheaper than illness"

Below we will discuss a few Organic standards set by countries worldwide.

USDA - ORGANIC STANDARDS IN UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) defines the standards for organic agriculture and food production in the United States. These standards are accepted widely all over the world. They have stringent rules with respect to organic cultivation which will ensure that the environment is not destroyed and you get healthy nutrient produce. Some of that includes No Synthetics, No GMO's, No Fertilizers, Rotation of crops, Organic meat and dairy. In a nutshell, these regulations help retain the soil nutrients and prevent soil erosion and contamination.

Initially, there were many suppliers claiming their produce was organic but it was unclear if it was genuine and organic hence came to the rise for the need to develop the right rules for organic farming. The USDA started working on this in 1990 after the US Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). The final rules were written by 2002. Many countries thereafter created their own regulations to streamline and regulate good organic practices.

In March 2018, The Regenerative Organic Certification (ROC) was officially launched and requires products to be made with ingredients grown with regenerative farming practices that aim to boost biodiversity, build healthy soil, and draw carbon from the atmosphere through methods like minimum tillage and cover cropping.


ESMA - ORGANIC STANDARDS IN UAE

UAE ESMA(Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology) standards are set to monitor and certify for conformity to organic farming standards.

UAE has numerous organic farms that are producing great organic produce and these farms are certified and monitored by ESMA. Hence we can always find a local organic farm near you by ensuring they have this certification along with a valid ESMA certificate number on the logo.


ORGANIC STANDARDS IN INDIA

"Jaivik Bharat" & "India Organic" are the two organic standards developed by FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) and NPOP (National Program for Organic Production) respectively.

NPOP just like USDA develops the standards for organic production in India for Certification Bodies. The NPOP organic standards for production and accreditation system have been recognized by the USA, European Commission, and Switzerland for unprocessed plant products as equivalent to their country standards. With these recognition's, Indian organic products duly certified by the accredited certification bodies of India are accepted by the importing countries.

(FSSAI) has launched the Food Safety and Standards (Organic Foods) Regulations in 2017 along with the unified logo for organic food products, supported with the tagline “Jaivik Bharat.” All organic foods certified under this logo also need to convey full and accurate information on labels about the organic status of the food. The ‘Jaivik Bharat’ logo is recognized as a mark of quality assurance given by the accredited certification bodies in India or any other bodies recognized by FSSAI. The FSSAI logo alone does not imply organic food, it must be accompanied by the "Jaivik Bharath" logo to ensure it is organic.

The India Organic certification is issued by testing centers accredited by the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) under the National Program for Organic Production of the Government of India.


ORGANIC STANDARDS IN EUROPE

This organic logo represents organic products produced and sold in the EU. The organic logo can only be used on products that have been certified as organic by an authorized control agency or body. This means that they have fulfilled strict conditions on how they are produced, transported, and stored.

The logo must be used by all pre-packaged EU food products, produced and sold as organic within the EU.

Additionally, the logo can optionally be used by:

  • Imported products where the product conforms to the EU rules on the import of organic goods;

  • Non-pre-packaged organic products;

  • EU organic products placed on third countries markets;

Above I have tried to cover some organic certifications mostly found on food products in the UAE. To read more about it you can go through the references provided below.


Conclusions:

  1. Supporting Organic agriculture will help our Planet revive, Our Farmers will be saved from toxins, diseases and also paid fair. It will provide us healthy toxin-free food.

  2. Organic agriculture is farming in such a way that your soil stays healthy, rich in organic matter, nutrients, and microbial activity. The Ecosystem thrives and flourishes. Crops can be grown without the synthetic fertilizers and pesticides used in conventional farming which is also polluting our water bodies.

  3. Organic agriculture eliminates the use of GMO seeds and also reduces soil erosion.

  4. Always look for the certification number by the certifying body along with the organic logo.

  5. If you buy it from your local farms that might not be certified ensure you ask them about their practices so you are assured you get good organic produce.

  6. Start growing your own veggies and fruits with Non-GMO seeds with nutrient-rich compost made at your home.

If organic produce needs to reach each and everyone's plate so it can be the new norm, this is possible only if each of us supports and understand the need for organic farming. There has to be less food wastage so organic food can be available to everyone moreover food wastage is just causing more problems for the environment!! Organic farming is very time and labor-intensive and is totally worth the spend.



REFERENCES:

http://www.prakati.in/jaivik-bharat-indias-organic-product-consumer-label/

https://medium.com/foodshed-io/unearthing-organics-what-the-certification-really-means-and-why-it-makes-sense-for-some-farms-and-cdaa5c2f89a3

https://ec.europa.eu/info/food-farming-fisheries/farming/organic-farming/organics-glance/organic-logo_en

https://www.ecocert.com/en/certification-detail/organic-farming-europe--ce--n-834-2007

https://www.esma.gov.ae/en-us/Services/Pages/Products/The-issuance-of-a-conformity-certificate-of-Organic-Products.aspx

https://jaivikbharat.fssai.gov.in/consumer_guidance.php

https://pgsindia-ncof.gov.in/pgs_india.aspx

http://apeda.gov.in/apedawebsite/organic/PresentStatus.htm

https://medium.com/foodshed-io/unearthing-organics-what-the-certification-really-means-and-why-it-makes-sense-for-some-farms-and-cdaa5c2f89a3

https://www.usda.gov/topics/organic

https://foodfixbook.com/




Written & Compiled by Pallavi Santhapuram

Disclaimer: This blog is for information purposes only and is not intended to change anybody’s personal views. All the information provided in this blog is true to the best of my knowledge, but there may be omissions, errors, or mistakes. The blog should not be seen as advice of medical, legal, or any other type. I reserve the right to change or update the focus or content on my published or upcoming blogs at any time. The information within this article is researched and compiled from the references provided.


THE ECO LOOP and the author are not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article. The suggestions or opinions appearing in the article are just the author's views. THE ECO LOOP does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.



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