Organic, the word we hear time and time again, but did you know in its truest form, organic means carbon?  Yes, carbon.  As a science person, it's often a joke among chemists and biologists or anyone who has a background in the sciences.  Nowadays, organic is used to label and/or describe the purest form of our foods.  Whether it be farmers markets, grocery stores, or even restaurants, you're bound to see that word.  Although, did you know, organic isn't always better?  This word can be quite misleading, yet most individuals are clueless and don't understand the complexity that lies behind this recommended grade of food.

The United States Department of Agriculture, known as the USDA, and the National Organic Program regulate our foods along with all means of agriculture and farming.  Typically you'll find their official seal for certified organic quality on food items deemed organic.  Without such a seal, it's highly likely an item isn't actually organic.  Now you've heard of and seen the term just about everywhere with the current organic craze, but you probably don't know much about the concept.  For starters you're familiar with the terms organic, natural, and non-organic right?  Well I'll tell you this, each one is very different than the next.  Organic and natural are not the same thing, nor are they comparable by any means!  Organic follows specific guidelines whereas natural does not.  Natural is said to be minimally processed, yet there aren't any regulations or guarantees .  The term "made with organic ingredients" also does not constitute a product to be organic.  This generally means 70%-94% may contain organic ingredients, which is a rather large percentage spectrum.

Here we go!  Organic is fairly complex as previously mentioned, but I will break it down for you so it is relatively easy to understand.  Once the basics are grasped, you'll be able to make more educated decisions when it comes to food grade quality when shopping and consuming produce, fish, meat, poultry, and other food items.  To be considered organic it must be certified by the USDA with their organic seal.  The item must contain at least 95%-99% organic ingredients, while the remaining 4%-1% ingredients aren't available as organic or are chosen to be non-organic, but still are approved by the NOP (National Organic Program).  This all means, organic constitutes grown without any synthetic pesticides or fertilizers or involve GMOs (genetically modified organisms) within that 95%-99% frame.  There isn't just a single type of organic, but various grades.  As mentioned, the grades vary, you have 100% organic, 95% organic, made with organic ingredients made with at least 70%, and specific organic ingredients less than 70%. 

How often do you eat organic?  Now before answering, you may want to double check if what you believe to be organic truly is certified organic and just how organic is it!  Checkout your local grocery store or farmers market to see the labels used or items labeled improperly as false advertising.  Restaurants may also use improper labeling of entries too, thus reading the fine print is key!  Many items will say "organic", but in very fine print it will state it is in fact not 100% organic.  I recently bought a new tea, a green tea with infused coconut, it just so happened to be organic.  As I'm checking out the box, I realize in tiny print that 5% is non-organic, but may only be non-organic due to its lack of availability.  It isn't specified, but the unknown makes you wonder.  A company may try cutting costs by not being 100% organic.  Even if organic ingredients are available, they may choose not to use it for cost reasons, not necessarily because it's unavailable.  Just some food for thought!  Now you know the facts about the organic lifestyle and maybe you'll rethink eating organic or at least the grade you desire.  Be aware of the foods you eat and as always, stay in the know!