Let’s Talk Sustainability: What Does “Organic” Really Mean?

October 23, 2014
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You are in need of cherry tomatoes. In front of you, you have two options: conventionally grown cherry tomatoes or organic cherry tomatoes. Both tomatoes are red, and shiny, so what’s the difference? Which one should you choose? And what does that organic label really mean?

In a general sense, organic food is simply food that is grown naturally. Organic food, certified by the USDA National Organic Program, is “produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.”  It refers to the way farmers grow and processes their products. Additionally, organic farming is designed to encourage soil and water conservation to preserve both.

There are three different ways an organic food product can be labeled:

  •  100% Organic: Made with 100% organic ingredients
  • Organic: Made with at least 95% organic ingredients
  • Made With Organic Ingredients: Made with a minimum of 70% organic ingredients with strict restrictions on the remaining 30% including no genetically modified organisms (GMOs). There are also regulations on placement of this term on the packaging. It is allowed to be listed on the side of the product, but not on the front.

Another common question in regards to organic food is its nutrition value. Does organic food provide better nutrition? The answer isn’t yet clear. There has not been significant evidence proving that organic foods are more nutritious than conventional food. If you’re not just interested in the nutrition aspect, there are some other considerations like pesticides, food additives and the environment to consider.  Nonetheless, organic foods do have the great benefits as previously mentioned above! And remember that organic is not the same as natural.

So, where exactly can we find all these naturally grown, environmentally friendly foods locally?

  • In all 4 of UCSB’s Residential Dining Commons, each hall has a variety of organic produce and products.
  •  At UCSB’s Farmers Market every Wednesday 11am-3pm at Campbell Hall & North Hall
  •  At the Isla Vista Co-Op located right off campus

To learn more information on organic food and the USDA National Organic Program, click here:

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