In its oversight of organic products, USDA must balance what farmers and processors need versus what consumers want. The USDA organic standards—influenced by public comments from organic farmers, processors, and consumers—often reflect a balance between these perspectives.
Carrageenan in organic products
- Used widely in food production, carrageenan is used to thicken, gel, and/or stabilize many foods. It has been allowed as a natural non-organic substance in organic processed products since 2003. Like other allowed non-organic substances, carrageenan is included in the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances.
Protecting organic crops from synthetic fertilizers
- The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 prohibits the use of synthetic fertilizers—including ammonia salts and urea—in organic crop production. Certifying agents are responsible for evaluating all substances proposed for use on an organic farm, including fertilizers. Several cases of fertilizer fraud have resulted in serious consequences to the offenders. The National Organic Program now requires additional scrutiny for all organic-approved liquid fertilizers containing more than 3 percent nitrogen.
Can GMOs Be Used in Organic Products
? - The use of genetic engineering, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is prohibited in organic products. Organic operations implement preventive practices based on site-specific risk factors, such as neighboring conventional farms or shared farm equipment or processing facilities. Any certified organic operation found to use prohibited substances or GMOs may face enforcement actions, including loss of certification and financial penalties.
Streamlined Sunset Review and Renewal Process
- On September 16, 2013, the National Organic Program (NOP) announced a transparent and streamlined sunset review and renewal process. While many members of the organic community have been very supportive of these process changes, we wanted to provide additional information on the revised sunset process.
Organic Hydroponic Crop Production
- Organic hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. This method of production is allowed as long as the producer can demonstrate compliance with the USDA organic regulations.
Strengthening Organic Integrity through Increased Residue Testing
- In late 2012, the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) announced a strengthened residue testing program to help increase consumer confidence in the $32 billion organic industry worldwide. This testing is helping certifying agents identify and take enforcement action against farms and businesses intentionally using prohibited substances or methods, such as prohibited pesticides, antibiotics, synthetic hormones or genetic engineering.