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Question re: organic certification

 
                                    
Posts: 1
Location: Portland OR
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I just recently found this forum, and registered. Though I don't consider myself a permaculturalist per se, I have been gardening naturally for most of the last 20 years. I enjoy learning about plant and soil science and so my interest in permaculture extends as far as science has validated its practices.

Can anyone here explain the thinking behind the requirement that growers with organic certification use certified organic seeds, but they can use soil amendments which are questionable with regard to potential contamination with pharmaceuticals, pesticides, etc., i.e. horse manure? This has me puzzled. I'd appreciate hearing your thoughts.

Thanks
 
Posts: 395
Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
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Can anyone here explain the thinking behind the requirement



You may have exposed the problem.   There is not a lot of thinking involved.    I worry when big chain stores like Safeway come up with their "organics" line of products.   I can only hope it is a better product than before.   
   
It is important to have a personal relationship with the person that grows your food.   The word 'organic' is not what it used to be.
 
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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I have tried a lot of the organic products that Meijers store has put out and some of them taste really bad compared to their own store brands that are not listed as organic..don't know why? One example is the organic salsa..YUK..love their regular store brand though..(only in winter when i can't make my own fresh)
 
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
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The requirements for organic certification have been adulterated by farm and food corporations who want the extra profit from organic certification, but want the easiest way to do it.  So, they've bought off the people in control to reduce the stringent requirements down to what suits them.

As far as I'm concerned, organic certification doesn't mean an awful lot, anymore.  When you can use a dangerous pesticide just because it has an organic origin, I think that's stupid.

And regarding organic food that doesn't taste very good:  if it's a prepared food, it doesn't matter if all the ingredients are organic if the recipe is poor.  Blech is blech, organic or not.

Second, some farms don't seem to care what their produce tastes like, as long as it is OG certified.  For instance, if they are using seed that was bred (naturally, not GMO) for just looks and a long shipping life (not flavor), and it was organic seed grown organically, I'm sure it still qualifies as organic, even though it is bland and yucky.  Also, I'll bet crops can be grown under organic certification without the soil being totally balanced minerally (which can affect flavor and quality).  Organic certification seems to be based more on what you CAN'T use than anything else.

I tasted some organic potatoes that Safeway was selling, and they were really gross and flavorless.  It's a good thing I got them for free...

Sue
 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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Yet another example of where corporate greed has gotten in the way of a good idea.

There have been laws passed that say a company can substitute non organic produce in prepared foods if the organic products are not available or of too high a cost and they still get to call the canned soup or whatever "organic" it has gotten so crazy.

And then there are the Ads that say organic means pesticide Free.  Well not quite true, Organic only means "chemical" pesticide free.

"sigh"

 
Posts: 111
Location: Vermont
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If you ever wonder about organic certification, what the standards are and who's in charge you can call or write your local certifying agency and get a list of local certified organic farms and what they grow. 
In the Pacific Northwest you've got Oregon tilth(http://www.tilth.org/).  In California you have CCOG (http://www.ccof.org/).
There are cheaters out there and they can help identify them and give you complete information about the standards they enforce.  You can join and have a voice in the decision making process too.
 
master steward
Posts: 32696
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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Myself .... me ....  I try to keep in mind that most corporations that are great.  But there are a few .... and I think I'll call them "big ag" that seem to break laws, or change the laws to make more money, or are okay with sacrificing the health of people to make money.  So when I try look these problems in the eye, I do tend to blame "big ag", but I do not blame "corporations."

But, that's just me.

As for buying organic - the stuff that is currently labeled "organic" is far less toxic than most of the stuff that does not have that label. 

 
steward
Posts: 2482
Location: FL
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Certified Organic is a real pain the arse.  Its the documentation.  I need to get each crop tested for nutritional content?  I need a crop rotation plan when I'm employing polyculture?  Where am I going to find Certified Organic compost at an affordable price and in the quantity I need?

Once in the store, the stuff is wrapped and labelled CO, but there is no way you are gonna tell me the yellow squash, wrapped in the store and labeled CO, came out of a different crate as the non CO, also wrapped and labeled in the store, sitting right beside it.

Because of the ease with which non-scrupulous marketers and retailers can adulterate the product, Certified Organic has no meaning once it leaves the farm gate.  The only way to be sure you are getting what you are paying for is to buy it directly from the grower.

For a small grower, following NOP rules takes time and money.  The small farms with a few thousand in annual sales have a hard time justifying the expense. 

The answer I've found is Certified Naturally Grown.  If your production methods are consistent with Certified Organics, CNG may work well for you.  The consumers of organic foods are not dolts.  They know what they want, they do their homework.  CNG is consistent with CO, but does not have the same documentation and testing requirements.  Its a whole lot less hassle and it is your competition that will physically come onto your farm for inspection.  In effect, you are juried by your peers. 

 
Posts: 123
Location: Northern New Mexico, USA
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Of course you have no different situation with certified naturally grown when it comes to unethical retailers. Whereas with certified organic there are enforcement mechanisms in place to deal with fraudulent retailers.

There is also registered organic, which is for growers who sell less than $5,000 in annual sales. They have to follow all the organic standards but do not have the higher costs of certification as the larger growers have. If they choose registered organic then they can legally use the term organic. This was set up specifically to deal with the micro-sized farms.

Certified Organic does not require crop testing for nutritional content. CO farms can use non-CO inputs so long as they are (generally speaking) natural and not prohibited by the National Organic Program (NOP). I would highly doubt that a certifier would require crop rotation on polyculture. This thread has a lot of misconceptions about certified organic promulgated by people who probably have never been certified organic, or else they wouldn't have made the erroneous statements. As a certified organic grower I have intimate knowledge of what is required.

I don't have the energy to refute all the misstatements about organic in this thread. Suffice it to say that while I understand that NOP is not perfect, it is a huge step in the right direction and prevents all kinds of greenwashing from happening. NOP hasn't been watered down to be meaningless and it isn't all about greed. You can't substitute non-organic ingredients without changing your labeling. Certainly there have been *attempts* at watering down NOP, but consumer and organic farmer outcry has prevented it from happening.

If you are selling direct to consumer, there is not much need for certified organic or certified naturally grown. You can tell the customer exactly how things are grown on your farm. Certified organic is needed when you're a consumer buying in a setting where you don't know the farm or the farmer and want healthy food.
 
Ken Peavey
steward
Posts: 2482
Location: FL
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For the farm operation where some form of certification can lend credibility, particularly when the business is in its infancy, CNG can serve well.  I support the idea of an industry regulating and policing itself with as little government involment as possible.  Once the government gets involved, special interests are able to dominate regulation.

Of course you have no different situation with certified naturally grown when it comes to unethical retailers


I agree, a crook is a crook.

There is also registered organic, which is for growers who sell less than $5,000 in annual sales



This is new to me, I'll look into it.  I have great hopes that I can do better than $5k/year.

Certified Organic does not require crop testing for nutritional content. CO farms can use non-CO inputs so long as they are (generally speaking) natural and not prohibited by the National Organic Program (NOP).


I'm not on my own computer and do not have access to my notes, but this goes against MY understanding of the NOP rules. 
 
                                        
Posts: 19
Location: Medford Oregon
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Hi folks.  As a soil analyst working through the local Extension Service, I do a lot of testing for CO growers.  What I have determined is that CO growers often scrimp on fertilizer inputs due to their high cost.  We end up with something we call "Organic By Neglect."  It explains the bitter-pit in fruit (lack of calcium), and a host of other complaints about organically grown produce.  Essentially, you can stay within the NOP guidelines and still grow things that are tasteless, lacking in nutrients, & have a very short shelf-life.
Part of the problem is poor education of the growers themselves.  But the biggest problem is in our nation's politics as we funnel too much wealth & resource into stupid, destructive pursuits, based on government lies and corporate greed.
However, this is all going to change, pretty quick.  All this red tape and marketing gimmickry will soon be a thing of the past... when the whole infrastructure collapses in one big dust heap.  Then, all our food will be farm-direct as we'll have no other food-source.  Hopefully the few remaining farms will be able to handle the demand.
 
Pat Black
Posts: 123
Location: Northern New Mexico, USA
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At some of the farmers markets I attend, I do see some of those "organic by neglect" growers. I might buy their produce once, but not a second time. It does show in both the taste and the shelf life.

I once bought apples from a grower who proudly told me he used no inputs. When I asked him about the large probability of worms in his apples, he said he'd just give me more apples for the same price and I could then feel good about tossing out the wormy ones. Just for fun I bought a few dollars worth. Sure enough, they were all full of worms. A conscientious apple grower would at least use pheromone lures and kaolin clay to create a good product. It requires some thought and checking your degree days to have accurate timing. On top of that you need to feed the trees/soil too.

If you are thinking about eventually selling CO produce at >$5K annual gross, I really encourage you to check into doing registered organic. To get that you'd follow all the NOP rules, so that when you got big enough to have to be CO, you already have the knowledge of NOP to make the easy transition.




 
          
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NM Grower wrote:
There is also registered organic, which is for growers who sell less than $5,000 in annual sales. They have to follow all the organic standards but do not have the higher costs of certification as the larger growers have. If they choose registered organic then they can legally use the term organic. This was set up specifically to deal with the micro-sized farms.



I really like that there is registered organic, and a lot of growers who sell to us at the store I work at use that, it's cheaper and easier, but there is actually no one checking their farms, with CNG the farmers check each others farms out, so there is at least someone physically there. Of course it's easy enough to not spray pesticides on the days your farm is getting checked out, if you wanted to be sneaky about it. I think part of the thing CNG tries to do is to meet people for you, so they can vouch for their trustworthiness.

I agree with the fact that at least CO has the law behind it, that's important, especially as it's grown in popularity. For us savvy customers we know it's best to know your farmer, especially if your farmer is you, but we still need the government to be doing something to regulate organic foods, even if it's watered down. It's a step to getting the world on a more sustainable food system.
 
Pat Black
Posts: 123
Location: Northern New Mexico, USA
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Jessica Wiley wrote:
I really like that there is registered organic, and a lot of growers who sell to us at the store I work at use that, it's cheaper and easier, but there is actually no one checking their farms, with CNG the farmers check each others farms out, so there is at least someone physically there. Of course it's easy enough to not spray pesticides on the days your farm is getting checked out, if you wanted to be sneaky about it. I think part of the thing CNG tries to do is to meet people for you, so they can vouch for their trustworthiness.


Yes, it's true that the registered organic program relies entirely on the honor of the grower. These growers probably sell most of their produce face to face with the customer. So as a customer you can talk to them.

A small natural grocer might also buy from a registered organic grower, and I hope the produce buyers from the stores would spend a few minutes in conversation with these growers to assure the organic integrity of the product. Generally the grower and the small grocer would develop a trusting relationship over the months and years of doing business together.

Big supermarket chains wouldn't be buying from a RO grower because the grower would need a million dollar liability policy to get in the door. The policy would be cost prohibitive to the RO grower.
 
          
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NM Grower wrote:
Yes, it's true that the registered organic program relies entirely on the honor of the grower. These growers probably sell most of their produce face to face with the customer. So as a customer you can talk to them.



I just went to our annual grower's meeting and one of the farmers was explaining why she didn't certify or register. She was saying it's great if you're getting food from a farm far far away, because you can look at that certification and know something, hopefully positive, about their farm. She's there on Saturdays so she can talk to people, they can come out to her farm, so she certifies herself. I liked that. No need to pay the 100$ though, if you're self-certifying.

NM Grower wrote:
A small natural grocer might also buy from a registered organic grower, and I hope the produce buyers from the stores would spend a few minutes in conversation with these growers to assure the organic integrity of the product. Generally the grower and the small grocer would develop a trusting relationship over the months and years of doing business together.



We do. My favorite part of my job, and probably the part that actually makes it worthwhile, is the farmer's I get to interact with through it. All the people really, but farmer's especially.
 
                    
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The problem with organic "certification" is that it attempts to do what all other inspection processes for food do:  Replace the relationship between farmer and eater with a bunch of laws, convincing one side that unless the other side complies with a bunch of paperwork, their food is not up to standards.  If the farmer DOES comply with a bunch of paperwork, their food is expected to be expensive. 

When customers buy food directly from the people that grow it, the customer becomes the inspector.  And that's a much more powerful sort of inspection!  When the farmer sells food to people who live in their nearby community, she feels a responsibility to produce high quality items that she feels proud to sell and proud to claim as "hers", she is certain about the safety of those products.  Certification processes replace this nuanced relationship based on personal knowledge about the origins of our food with a simple stamp on the box or bag or whatever. 

A friend recently brought to dinner a box containing exactly six cookies, each individually wrapped in their own little plastic bag.  They were certified organic!  Hilariously they still contained a few soy ingredients that were not organic and therefore probably GMO.  Are they really something we should be proud to eat? 
 
              
Posts: 238
Location: swampland virginia
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might be of interest to some:

tomato farmer growing organically in an earthbox (bottom up watering plastic container) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_fJ25Mubck

HR 875 - Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 - do not think it passed, but looks like it was backed by 'big ag'

Read the book 'Twinkie, Deconstructed: My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods Are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined), and Manipulated into What America Eats' for insight into what's in food and the safety/reasons behind some of it.
 
I am a man of mystery. Mostly because of this tiny ad:
Rocket Mass Heater Manual - now free for a while
https://permies.com/goodies/8/rmhman
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