organic food, food raised without chemicals and processed without additives. Under standards adopted by the U.S. Agriculture Dept. (USDA) in 2000 and fully effective in 2002, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and antibiotics may not be used in raising organic foods, and the use of irradiation, biotechnology, and sewer-sludge fertilizer is also banned. Food whose ingredients are at least 95% organic by weight may carry the "USDA ORGANIC" label; products containing only organic ingredients are labeled 100% organic.
Proponents of organic food claim that it is more nutritious, safer to eat, and usually tastes better because it contains no synthetically compounded fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, hormones, medicated feed, or antibiotics or chemicals used in food processing (see also organic farming); these claims are disputed by conventional-food growers and processors. Organic foods have become steadily more popular as the public has become more concerned about health risks associated with chemicals in food products. Organic produce is now available in many food outlets, including major supermarket chains. Organic food is generally more expensive because organic farming requires more manual labor and attention.
See D. Steinman, Diet for a Poisoned Planet (1990).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.