US StandardsThe USDA National Organic Program creates standards for the US organic farming industry. But since the USDA is part of the FDA, and the FDA is well-known to be soft on GMOs and pesticides, the US "standard" is questionable at best. (March 2016: There is currently a lawsuit against the FDA for violating it's own regulations.)
The USDA NOP has the following areas of responsibility:
- Manage organic operations. The NOP Intro to Organic Practices PDF is here.
- Develop regulations and guidance on organic farming. Regulations are here. The NOP organic handbook is here.
- Manage the national list of allowed and prohibited substances.
- Investigate regulatory violation complaints.
- Accredit certifying agents.
- And a few more items.
- Here is a list of certified organic companies in the US and which products are certified organic. There are several fields to search on including company name, city, state, country, and certified products.
- Conform to regulations when exporting or importing organic foods.
How USDA NOP defines "organic" practices
- Practices PDF here.
- Avoid use of synthetic use of fertilizers. Note that the US regulations do not ban synthetic fertilizers. But, nitrogen is nitrogen unless it's contaminated with something dangerous.
- Avoid sewage sludge* and biosolids. Sewage sludge can contain many toxic chemicals including heavy metals.
- Avoid irradiation and GMOs.
- Use cover crops to reduce erosion.
- Use organic seeds unless that variety is not available as an organic product. In this case they can use non-GMO seeds.
- Use crop rotation to reduce pests and diseases.
- Manage pests using Prevention, Avoidance, Monitoring, and Suppression (PAMS). Predatory insects are allowed. As a last resort the growing can use organic pesticides. I assume Bt is allowed in this case as it's a "naturally occurring organism" allowed by the NOP.
- Organic crops must not receive overspray from non-organic crops if the farm grows both.
- Land that has had conventional pesticides applied cannot be used for organic crops for 36 months.
- More guidelines on animals are in the PDF.
Class A sludge is typically dried and pasteurized, and is also known as "exceptional" quality. Class B includes all sludge not classified as Class A. Class B sludge is typically "undigested" and is volatile. Both classes of sludge may still contain radioactive or pharmaceutical wastes.Now you know the basics of organic food farming.