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Organic & Natural Glossary

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ACO - Australian Certified Organic
Australian Certified Organic (ACO) currently certifies about 55% of the Australian organic industry and we estimate the bud logo appears on about 70% of all certified organic product in Australia.

The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, as amended (7 U.S.C. 6501 et seq.).


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BCCO - British Columbia, Canada
British Columbia Certified Organic ensures that products have been grown and processed meeting strict BC government-approved standards for organic farm production and processing.
Those standards were developed by the COABC, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries.

BCS - Germany
BCS certifies more than 450,000 farmers and more than 1,000 processing businesses in import and export worldwide. Their services cover all vital agricultural cultivations and the majority of all relevant processing industries.

BDRI - Bio-Dynamic Research Institute, Australia
An Australian Government accredited Organic and Bio-Dynamic Certification
Organisation responsible for the DEMETER Trademark.

Bio Latina
Promoting the development of sustainable, organic agriculture in all regions of Latin America and ensuring fair wages for local people.

Made popular by Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, biodynamic farming combines organic methods, including crop rotation and composting with special plant, animal, and mineral preparations and the rhythmic influences of the sun, moon, planets, and stars.


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Cage-free eggs are laid by hens that are not kept in cages. Advocates contend that contends that cage-free eggs definitely taste better and are healthier. However, critics say that cage-free doesn’t mean comfortable: In some operations, many thousands of hens can be packed together in a crowded indoor space, flapping their clipped wings, fluttering on top of one another—not really an improvement over being physically safe but constrained in a cage. Currently, cage-free operations are not well regulated. We recommend paying a bit more for USDA Certified Organic eggs, which are inspected. The hens have access to the outdoors and sunlight, are fed organic feed, and in our experience, lay much tastier eggs.

California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF)
CCOF is an independent party that was the first to provide certification services to all stages of the organic food chain from farms to processors, restaurants, and retailers. CCOF certifies the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) standards and CCOF international standards.

Certified Organic
There are four organic classifications for organic food that meet strict standards set forth by the USDA National Organic Program (NOP). For more information, see our Label Guide.

Certified Naturally Grown
A non-profit organization that supports smaller local farmers that cannot afford to participate in the national organic certification program.

Certifying Agent
Certifying agents are associated with independent organizations who visit organic farms to ensure that USDA NOP standards are upheld.

Compost is composed of organic matter that is recycled back into the earth. Organic matter may include lawn clippings, vegetable scraps from the kitchen, and untreated papers. These materials are combined and become a nutrient-rich mixture that enriches the soil.

Cover Cropping
A crop that provides temporary protection for delicate seedlings and/or provides a canopy for seasonal soil protection and improvement between normal crop-production periods. Except in orchards where permanent vegetative cover is maintained, cover crops are usually grown for one year or less. When plowed under and incorporated into the soil, cover crops are also referred to as green manure crops.

Crop Rotation
A system of planting where crops vary from season to season; one crop is not grown each year as a new one replaces the one before.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
A CSA is a paid subscription to a farm where people buy a share of the farm and are provided with a variety of fruits and vegetables in return according to what is in season on a routine basis. This is an excellent way to build a relationship with a farmer and support local agriculture.

CCOF was founded in 1973 as a mutual assistance and certification organization for organic farmers and was one the first organizations to perform organic certification in North America.
Since then, the CCOF seal has been your assurance of certification with integrity.

In the U.S., “certified organic” means that an independent organization accredited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has verified that a manufacturer’s products meet strictly defined organic standards as specified by the NOP. This certification protects consumers and ensures the product’s value. Also See Organic Products.

Certified Operation
A crop or livestock production, wild-crop harvesting or handling operation, or portion of such operation that is certified by an accredited certifying agent as utilizing a system of organic production or handling as described by the Act and the regulations in this part.

Certifying Agent
Any entity accredited by the Secretary as a certifying agent for the purpose of certifying a production or handling operation as a certified production or handling operation.

Crop Rotation
The practice of alternating the annual crops grown on a specific field in a planned pattern or sequence in successive crop years so that crops of the same species or family are not grown without interruption on the same field. Perennial cropping systems employ means such as alley cropping, intercropping, and hedgerows to introduce biological diversity in lieu of crop rotation.

Digging up or cutting the soil to prepare a seed bed; control weeds; aerate the soil; or work organic matter, crop residues, or fertilizers into the soil.

Cultural Methods
Methods used to enhance crop health and prevent weed, pest, or disease problems without the use of substances; examples include the selection of appropriate varieties and planting sites; proper timing and density of plantings; irrigation; and extending a growing season by manipulating the microclimate with green houses, cold frames, or wind breaks.

A community-supported agricultural group. An arrangement between farmers and community members, CSAs provide farmers with advance payment—cash in hand to run the farm—and “subscribers” so they know exactly how much to plant. Consumer participants paying an up-front fee and in return receive a weekly box of fresh, locally-grown produce. The contents differ each week and participants never know what they’ll get, but it follows seasonal trends: root vegetables in the fall, citrus in the winter, tomatoes in the summer, etc. Members generally pick up their boxes of produce at a central location in the community. In many cases, participants can also visit and help work the farm. Some people join a CSA to help local farmers, others like to know where their food comes from and still others are locavores who want to enjoy the freshest fruits and vegetables, those that haven’t been sitting in cold storage or traveling six weeks by boat. Another customer segment likes the “grab bag” aspect of being surprised by their “foods of the week.” In 2008, more than 1,500 CSAs were operating nationwide, up from 50 in 1990. Shares are reasonable, generally about $20 to $30 a week, although the Fulton Center for Sustainable Living reports the average cost per participant in 2007 as $500 to $900. The CSA concept originated in Europe and Asia in the 1980s as an alternative financing arrangement, to help sustain small-scale farmers. Not surprisingly, the concept is most popular in states with the most farms, including California, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.


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Demeter - USA
Demeter-International is a non profit organisation and its member organisations work together in the spirit of an international confederation with democratic principles.
Its basis is the Biodynamic agriculture method, originated by Rudolf Steiner in his "Agriculture Course" given in Koberwitz in 1924, and developed further in practice and research.


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Ecocert - France
ECOCERT currently carries out inspections and certification services in over 80 countries outside the EU, on all continents.

Excluded Methods
A variety of methods used to genetically modify organisms or influence their growth and development by means that are not possible under natural conditions or processes and are not considered compatible with organic production. Such methods include cell fusion, microencapsulation and macroencapsulation, and recombinant DNA technology (including gene deletion, gene doubling, introducing a foreign gene, and changing the positions of genes when achieved by recombinant DNA technology). Such methods do not include the use of traditional breeding, conjugation, fermentation, hybridization, in vitro fertilization, or tissue culture.

Someone who is referred to as eco-conscious is conscious of the environment and the ecosystems that support it. People who are eco-conscious are aware of how our buying habits, living habits and eating habits impact the earth.


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Fair Trade
Items that bear a fair trade label are internationally produced and include banana, pineapple, coffee, and chocolate that typically come from developing countries where workers aren’t always provided the best conditions. Fair trade labeling assures that farmers are paid better-than-conventional prices, are trained on sustainable agriculture practices, work directly with food cooperatives (co-ops), and are often organic.

Farmers’ Market
Farmers’ markets are typically held weekly, usually outside, and are a place where local farmers in any given area gather to sell their produce or specialty goods. Food sold at the market is not always organic, however the selection of organic food is traditionally broader at a Farmers' Market than at other outlets. These markets are also a great place to develop relationships with the folks who grow your food.

A person who eats mainly vegetarian food, but makes occasional exceptions for social, pragmatic, cultural or nutritional reasons. Flexitarians may occasionally eat meat and/or other animal products. According to the Vegetarian Research Group, about 3% of American adults are true vegetarians who say they never eat meat, fish or poultry. But at least 10% of adults consider themselves vegetarians, even though they eat fish or chicken occasionally—flexitarians.

Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA)
Established in 1996, the FQPA amendments changed the way the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates pesticides. The requirements included a new safety standard—reasonable certainty of no harm—that must be applied to all pesticides used on foods.

Free range refers to poultry that has access to a barnyard, as opposed to chickens who spend their lives caged. However, they don’t necessarily spend their lives strutting around the Old MacDonald’s barnyard. According to U.S.D.A. regulations, the birds must have access to the outdoors throughout their lives, whether they chose to go out or not. Most free-range producers have little portholes along the side of the henhouse which are open during the day, and the hens can walk into a fenced-in yard. However, some producers may just open the chicken house door for several hours a day.


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Genetically Engineered (GE)
Genetically engineered foods have had foreign genes inserted into their genetic codes. Genetic engineering can be done with plants, animals, or microorganisms. GE practices are sometimes referred to as bioengineered or biotechnology.

Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)
A plant, animal, or microorganism that is transformed by genetic engineering. A product that is the result of genetic engineering is called a “product of genetic engineering” or a “derivative of GMOs” depending on the circumstances. It is felt by some that the use of GM crops unnecessarily risks the health of the population and the environment due to insufficient knowledge to safely and predictably modify plant genomes.


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Any person engaged in the business of handling agricultural products, including producers who handle crops or livestock of their own production, except such term shall not include final retailers of agricultural products that do not process agricultural products.

An antique variety of a plant popular in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, the seeds of which have been passed down from generation to generation.

The result of organic material being decomposed into a dark soil-like material that contains plant nutrients.


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International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)
IFOAM’s mission is to lead, unite, and assist the organic movement in its full diversity with a goal of worldwide adoption of ecologically, socially, and economically sound systems that are based on the principles of organic agriculture.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
The use of different techniques in combination to control pests, with an emphasis on methods that are least injurious to the environment and most specific to the particular pest. For example, pest-resistant plant varieties, regular monitoring for pests, pesticides, natural predators of the pest, and good stand management practices may be used singly or in combination to control or prevent particular pests.

Exposure to ionizing radiation. Food irradiation is a synthetic process that is not allowed in organic production.


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NASAA - Australia
NASAA is the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia. There organisation focuses on developing and maintaining organic standards; assisting operators in gaining organic certification; and conducting ongoing compliance supervision and inspection of certified operations.

Natural foods do not contain additives or preservatives but ingredients may have been grown using conventional farming methods or genetically engineered grain. Because natural products are not regulated, it is important not to confuse them with organic!

Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA)
Northeast Organic Farming Association is a nonprofit organization of nearly 4,000 farmers, gardeners, and consumers working to promote healthy food, organic farming practices, and a cleaner environment. NOFA has chapters in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

National Organic Program (NOP)
In 1990, Congress passed the Organic Food Production Act, which called on the USDA to establish national standards for growing, processing, and marketing organic products. NOP was established to create a system of criteria for certifying organic food by the USDA.

National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)
This group is a government-appointed panel that advises the National Organic Program to assist in the development of standards for substances to be used in organic production and to advise on any other aspects of the implementation of the National Organic Program.

No Preservatives
A product that is not made with any of the ingredients nitrates, nitrites, BHT, and sulfites.


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OCIA International is a nonprofit, member-owned, agricultural organization and is dedicated to providing the highest quality organic certification services and access to global organic markets.
As providers and consumers of certified organic products, they are committed to environmentally sound stewardship.

Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA International)
A nonprofit, member-owned organization that is one of the world’s oldest and largest leaders in the organic certification industry. OCIA is committed to environmentally sound stewardship and dedicated to providing the highest quality organic certification services and access to global organic markets.

Organic Farming
Agriculture that does not use chemicals, genetic modification, or irradiation, using only natural products. The term “organic farming” was first printed in the 1940 publication, Look to the Land, by Lord Northbourne. Not just a technique, but a philosophy, as well.

Organic Consumers Association (OCA)
A research and action center for the organic and fair trade movements that campaigns for what they refer to as health, justice, and sustainability. The OCA is a proponent of labeling for genetically engineered food.

Organic Matter
Any material that was recently living or produced by a living organism and is capable of being decomposed.

Organic Trade Association (OTA)
The Organic Trade Association is a membership-based business association that focuses on the organic business community in North America. The OTA's mission is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public, and the economy. The OTA is a member of IFOAM.

Organic System Plan
A plan of management of an organic production or handling operation that has been agreed to by the producer or handler and the certifying agent and that includes written plans concerning all aspects of agricultural production or handling described in the Act and the regulations in subpart C of this part.

Organic Production
A production system that is managed in accordance with the Act and regulations in this part to respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.


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Land used for livestock grazing that is managed to provide feed value and maintain or improve soil, water, and vegetative resources.

A person who engages in the business of growing or producing food, fiber, feed, and other agricultural-based consumer products.

Used to describe products that do not have parabens, which are chemical preservatives added to personal-care products for extending shelf life, and widely used in tens of thousand of types of cosmetic products today. They are suspected of presenting risks to the reproductive system. The four main parabens in use are methyl, ethyl, propyl, and butylparabens.

Persistent Toxic Chemicals
Detrimental materials that remain active for a long time after their application and can be found in the environment years, and even decades, after they were used.

A general term for chemicals used to destroy living things that people consider pests. More specific terms include the following: "Insecticide," a substance that kills insects; "herbicide," a substance that kills plants/weeds; "fungicide," a substance that kills fungi; "fumigant," a substance that kills all organisms in the soil—a soil sterilizer; and "rodenticide," a substance that kills rodents.


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The QAI Certification Program is designed to certify every step of the organic chain. From the land on which the product is grown; to the producers growing the product; to the post-harvest facilities preparing the product; to the processing and handling facilities transforming the product.

Quality Assurance International, Inc. (QAI, Inc.)
Quality Assurance International is considered to be the global leader in organic certification services has now certified more than a quarter of a million organic products. QAI offers organic certification under the National Organic Program for producers, processors, private labelers, distributors, retailers, restaurants, wild crop harvesters, greenhouse, mushrooms, and facilities. QAI also offers “fiber certification” under the American Organic Standards.


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SKAL - Netherlands
Skal is the inspection body for the organic production in the Netherlands. We can offer you the most important information about inspection and certification of organic production in the Netherlands.

Soil Association Certification Ltd.
United Kingdoms' leading certifier. They certify up to 80% of Europe's organic food solld in that country. For more information,
Sustainable—Capable of being continued with minimal long-term effect on the environment, as with sustainable agriculture, which integrates three main goals: environmental stewardship, farm profitability, and prosperous farming communities. Sustainable development recognizes the need to work with living environments in a balanced manner.


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United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
The National Organic Program (NOP) was created under the aegis of the USDA.

The National Organic Program (NOP) develops, implements, and administers national production, handling, and labeling standards for organic agricultural products and is administered by the Department of Agriculture (USDA)
The NOP also accredits the certifying agents (foreign and domestic) who inspect organic production and handling operations to certify that they meet USDA standards.


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Also appears as “wildcrafted” and sometimes referred to as “wild crops.” A plant gathered in the wild in its natural habitat from a site that is not maintained under cultivation or other agricultural management for manufacturing into a herbal supplement.

Wild Crop
Any plant or portion of a plant that is collected or harvested from a site that is not maintained under cultivation or other agricultural management.


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