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Organic Myth #1: 5% Can Be Toxins!

organic myth 1I have noticed that there are several myths about certified organic products that periodically circulate around the internet. So I decided that it would be a good idea to address these on the blog as they come to my attention. This is the first in a series I will be doing on Organic Myths. I will continue to publish new posts as I have time and as seems necessary. The first myth that I am going to address is the idea that a certified organic product doesn’t really have to be all organic. I have seen this one circulated in various forms, with statements made that “a certified organic product only has to be 70 to 95% organic in order to be labeled” to “5% of ingredients in certified organic products can be toxins or GMOs” to ” in a bin of organic avocados or a bag of organic oats up to 5% of them can be conventional” or even  “certified organic pear from the store is allowed to have up to 5% toxins in it”.

This myth does start with a little bit of truth, which I have found is the case with most misinformation.

As far as the first statement “a certified organic product only has to be 70 to 95% organic in order to be labeled”, the truth is this is referring to two different labeling options; “made with organic ingredients” and “organic” or “certified organic”.  In order to state on the front label of a product that it “contains organic ingredients” it must contain at least 70% organic ingredients. In order to say “organic” or “certified organic” the product must contain at least 95% organic ingredients, so it is true that here is a 5% exception rule and this seems to be where the misunderstanding begins. However this does not mean that the other 5% are toxic ingredients or GMOs. The other 5% can only be specific products that are not available organically and that come from a specific list. For example if fish oil was included in a product, since there is no certified organic fish oil, that could be part of the 5%. Also ingredients such as baking soda and other nonagricultural substances are included in this group. One other thing to note is that GMO is a prohibited practice and even any conventional ingredients in organic products may not be genetically modified.

Secondly, as far as this statement ” in a bin of organic avocados or a bag of organic oats up to 5% of them can be conventional” or the even worse statement that that I have heard claiming that a “certified organic pear from the store is allowed to have up to 5% toxins in it”. This is not true!!! As a certified organic vegetable grower I know that we are never allowed to use synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or or herbicides, not even 5% of the time, or we lose our certification. Our produce must be 100% organic 100% of the time. The 5% exception only applies to multi ingredient products not single produce items. Whenever you see certified organic produce you can know that there is no 5% exception. All the organic apples in the bin are organic, the whole head of lettuce was grown organically.  Below is an excerpt from the national organic standards pertinent to this issue. I hope you all have a great day. ~Celeste of Simple Gifts Farm

If you are interested in further researching the organic standards for yourself click here for the full handbook of organic standards.

 

§205.301   Product composition.

(a) Products sold, labeled, or represented as “100 percent organic.” A raw or processed agricultural product sold, labeled, or represented as “100 percent organic” must contain (by weight or fluid volume, excluding water and salt) 100 percent organically produced ingredients. If labeled as organically produced, such product must be labeled pursuant to §205.303.

(b) Products sold, labeled, or represented as “organic.” A raw or processed agricultural product sold, labeled, or represented as “organic” must contain (by weight or fluid volume, excluding water and salt) not less than 95 percent organically produced raw or processed agricultural products. Any remaining product ingredients must be organically produced, unless not commercially available in organic form, or must be nonagricultural substances or nonorganically produced agricultural products produced consistent with the National List in subpart G of this part. If labeled as organically produced, such product must be labeled pursuant to §205.303.

(c) Products sold, labeled, or represented as “made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s)).”Multiingredient agricultural product sold, labeled, or represented as “made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s))” must contain (by weight or fluid volume, excluding water and salt) at least 70 percent organically produced ingredients which are produced and handled pursuant to requirements in subpart C of this part. No ingredients may be produced using prohibited practices specified in paragraphs (f)(1), (2), and (3) of §205.301. Nonorganic ingredients may be produced without regard to paragraphs (f)(4), (5), (6), and (7) of §205.301. If labeled as containing organically produced ingredients or food groups, such product must be labeled pursuant to §205.304.

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