The organic seal tells you that the producers of the foods followed a long list of rules; they did not use any synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers; they did not plant genetically modified seeds, use fertilizer derived from sewage sludge, or treat the seeds or foods with irradiation; and they kept records of everything they did and showed the paperwork and everything on their farms to inspectors from a USDA-accredited state or a private certification agency any time they were asked to, announced in advance or not. The Organic Standards—the rules about what organic farmers can and cannot use—take up hundreds of pages in the Federal Register and do not make for light reading. Like any rules, they require interpretation.

In order to obtain organic certification, farmers have to follow strict rules about the use of manure to make sure that harmful microbes are destroyed, and they are inspected to make sure they do. Growers of conventional produce do not have to follow such rules.

When you choose organics, you are voting with your fork for a planet with fewer pesticides, richer soil, and cleaner water supplies—all better in the long run. When you choose locally grown produce, you are voting for the conservation of fuel resources and the economic viability of local communities, along with freshness and better taste. Once you consider such things, the choices in the produce section are much easier to make.


Organic certification is a certification process for producers of organic food and other organic agricultural products. In general, any business directly involved in food production can be certified, including seed suppliers, farmers, food processors, retailers and restaurants. Requirements vary from country to country, and generally involve a set of production standards for growing, storage, processing, packaging and shipping that include:

1. Avoidance of most synthetic chemical inputs (e.g. fertilizer, pesticides, antibiotics, food additives, etc), genetically modified organisms, irradiation, and the use of sewage sludge.

2. Use of farmland that has been free from chemicals for a number of years (often, three or more).

3. Maintaining strict physical separation of organic products from non-certified products.

4. Keeping detailed written production and sales records (audit trail).

5. Undergoing periodic on-site inspections.


Deborah Koons Garcia

The Future of Food, a groundbreaking documentary released in 2004, distills the complex technology and key regulatory, legal, ethical, environmental and consumer issues surrounding the troubling changes happening in the food system today—genetically engineered foods, patenting, and the corporatization of food—into terms the average person can easily understand. It empowers consumers to understand the consequences of their food choices on our future.

In 2010 as we take note of where we stand and look toward the future, the issues raised in The Future of Food are more pressing than ever. The corporate control of agriculture and the seed supply is meeting more and more resistance from the sustainable food movement that has risen up around the world. Food and agriculture have become central in discussions about climate change, sequestering carbon, health and the preservation of biological diversity.