The Benefits of Organic Food
Food grown without intensive use of synthetic chemicals is better for the health of people and the environment
In recent years, many farmers across the United States have abandoned synthetic pesticides, fertilizers and hormones in favor of organic growing methods. The result is healthy, naturally grown food that’s better for our health and the environment.
What is organic food?
Organic food is generally produced using ecologically integrated practices without use of synthetic chemicals, genetically engineered materials, sewage sludge or irradiation.
Products bearing USDA’s organic seal and labeled as “organic” must contain all organic approved materials, although limited exceptions may apply for up to 5 percent of the product ingredients. Foods that are at least 70 percent organic can bear the phrase "Made With Organic Ingredients."
Animal products certified as organic must come from livestock that has had access to the outdoors, has not been treated with hormones or antibiotics and has been reared on organic feed.
Chemically dependent agriculture harms the environment and puts human health at risk.
Pesticide or fertilizer laden runoff from farmlands washes into rivers, lakes, and streams, contaminating waterways, and destroying habitat. Many pesticides are also toxic to health, and have been linked to respiratory problems, neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, cancer and reproductive problems. Every year, farm workers and people living near conventional farms suffer from poisonings and serious health effects from pesticide spraying.
By supporting organic agriculture, we reward farmers who have made significant efforts to eliminate the need for harmful chemicals.
Is organic the only option?
No. Many farmers who are not certified organic are doing good things on their land to reduce environmental impacts. But the organic certification gives consumers a powerful tool for finding those with verified best practices, particularly related to chemical inputs and soil health.
Other legitimate certifications focus on other attributes of sustainability, such as fair working practices, water and habitat management, and humane livestock practices. Visit Consumer Reports for a guide to the most meaningful types of certification.
last revised 9/11/2009
Sign up for NRDC's online newsletter
NRDC Gets Top Ratings from the Charity Watchdogs
- Charity Navigator awards NRDC its 4-star top rating.
- Worth magazine named NRDC one of America's 100 best charities.
- NRDC meets the highest standards of the Wise Giving Alliance of the Better Business Bureau.
- A new class of antibiotics — an exciting discovery but no substitute for antimicrobial stewardship
- posted by Carmen Cordova, 1/13/15
- New Year: NRDC Still Fighting for the Safety of our Pets and Kids
- posted by Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, 1/5/15
- More Fracking Fumes: Studies Repeatedly Find Unsafe Levels of Air Pollution Near Fracking Sites
- posted by Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, 12/16/14