Organic movement

Organic Tomatoes

The organic movement broadly refers to the organizations and individuals involved worldwide in the promotion of organic farming and other organic products. It started around the first half of the 20th century, when modern large-scale agricultural practices began to appear.

Overview and origin

The term “organic” can be broadly described as food grown without the assistance of man-made chemicals. The beginnings of the organic movement can be traced back to the beginning of the 1800s. In 1840 Justus Von Liebig developed a theory of mineral plant nutrition. Liebig believed that manure could be directly substituted by certain mineral salts. Many years later in 1910, preceding the First World War, chemists Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch developed an ammonia synthesis process, making use of nitrogen from the atmosphere. This form of ammonia had already been used to manufacture explosives, so after the war, it was implemented into the fertilization of agriculture.

The organic movement began in the early 1900s in response to the shift towards synthetic nitrogen fertilizers and pesticides in the early days of industrial agriculture. A relatively small group of farmers came together in various associations: Demeter International of Germany, which encouraged biodynamic farming and began the first certification program, the Australian Organic Farming and Gardening Society,[1] the Soil Association of the United Kingdom, and Rodale Press in the United States, along with others. In 1972 these organizations joined to form the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). In recent years, environmental awareness has driven demand and conversion to organic farming. Some governments, including the European Union, have begun to support organic farming through agricultural subsidy reform. Organic production and marketing have grown at a fast pace.

Today, organic foods stores have captured a significant share of the grocery shopping market, specifically, Whole Foods Market, Wild Oats, Trader joe's and others.


Organic food

Main article: Organic food

Specifications for what may be classified as organic food may vary by location. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance the quality of the environment. Organic poultry and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without the use of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, bioengineering, and ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled "organic", a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it reaches supermarkets and restaurants must be certified as well.

Organic companies

The recent interest in the organic industry has sparked the interest of many businesses from small local distributors to large companies that distribute many products nationally. The organic market is now a 14 billion dollar a year industry, that continues to grow especially from large corporations such as Wal-Mart that are now offering organic choices to their customers.[2] Other companies that offer organic options include General Mills and Kraft. Some large companies have bought smaller already established organic companies such as Earth’s Best, Rice Dream soy milk, Garden of Eatin', Celestial Seasonings and Health Valley. When larger companies buy smaller companies it is called stealth ownership.[3]

Organic cosmetics

Organic cosmetics are products that are made with organic ingredients that were produced without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers.

The FDA does not have a definition of “Organic” in terms of organic cosmetics. FDA regulates cosmetics under the authority of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA).

The USDA (the U.S. Department of Agriculture) requirements for the use of the term “organic” are separate from the laws and regulations that FDA applies for cosmetics. For more information on "organic" labeling for cosmetics, see the NOP publication, "Cosmetics, Body Care Products, and Personal Care Products." Cosmetic products labeled with “organic” must follow both USDA regulations and FDA regulations of organic claims for labeling and safety requirements for cosmetics.

The Agricultural Marketing Service of USDA supervises the National Organic Program (NOP). The NOP regulations have the definition of “organic” and provide certification for agricultural ingredients if they have been produced under conditions that would meet the definition. Moreover, the regulations also include labeling standards based on the percentage of organic ingredients in every product.[4]

Organic farming

Main article: Organic farming


There have been multiple criticisms regarding organic food and organic marketing practices. Scientists at the University of Washington did a test of the urine of children who are on organic food diets and children who are on conventional food diets. The result was children on organic food diets ‘ urine had a median level of pesticide byproducts only one-sixth of children on conventional food diets. However, at the same time French, British and Swedish government food agencies have all concluded that there was no scientific proof that organic food is safer or has more nutrition than conventional foods.[5]

A 2014 study by a non-profit academic think tank alleged consumers are "routinely deceived" by intentional and endemic misleading health claims in organic marketing.[6] Organic products typically cost 10% to 40% more than similar conventionally produced products.[7] According to the UK's Food Standards Agency, "Consumers may choose to buy organic fruit, vegetables and meat because they believe them to be more nutritious than other food. However, the balance of current scientific evidence does not support this view."[8] A 12-month systematic review commissioned by the FSA in 2009 and conducted at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine based on 50 years' worth of collected evidence concluded that "there is no good evidence that consumption of organic food is beneficial to health in relation to nutrient content."[9] Although the source of the organic movement was small family farms, large corporations have started distributing more organic products and certain categories of organic foods, such as milk, have been reported by Michael Pollan to be highly concentrated and predominantly sourced to mega-farms.[10]

See also


  1. Paull, John "The Lost History of Organic Farming in Australia", Journal of Organic Systems, 2008, 3(2):2-17.
  2. Clark, Georgia. "The New Horizon for Organics: A Market Outlook of the Effects of Wal-Mart on the International Organic Market". June 2007
  3. Kleppel, Gary; Ikerd, John (2014-07-22). The Emergent Agriculture: Farming, Sustainability and the Return of the Local Economy. New Society Publishers. ISBN 9780865717732.
  5. Jan, Grover; Singer, Peter; Mason, Jim (2008). FOOD. Detroit: Greenhaven Press. pp. 170–171. ISBN 978-0737737943.
  6. Organics Exposed (Academics Review Organic Marketing Report 2014), by Steve Kopperud, Brownfield News, May 2, 2014.
  7. Winter, CK and SF Davis, 2006 "Organic Foods" Journal of Food Science 71(9):R117–R124.
  8. The Food Standards Agency’s Current Stance Archived March 31, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. Sophie Goodchild (2009-07-29). "Organic food 'no healthier' blow". London Evening Standard. Archived from the original on August 1, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-29.
  10. Naturally, by Michael Pollan, The New York Times Magazine, May 13, 2001.


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