What is organic food?
Food that is labeled “organic” has been grown or raised without synthetic chemical fertilizers, pest killers (pesticides), weed killers (herbicides), hormones, or drugs. Synthetic means that they are made in a lab.
This means that farmers and ranchers who grow organic food:
- Use only natural pest killers, such as plant oils, soap, fungus-eating bacteria, or bugs that eat other bugs.
- Use only natural fertilizers, such as manure or compost.
- Feed their animals only organic food.
- Don’t give their animals antibiotics or growth hormones.
- Don’t use genetically modified organisms (GMOs). GMOs are plants or animals whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering.
- Don’t use irradiation, which means using X-rays or other types of rays to kill pests, change the way plants grow, or keep vegetables and fruits from spoiling as fast.
Chemical free and Pest free vegetables
The first thing to know is that even food labeled “pesticide-free” is not truly free of pesticides. Pesticide residues are everywhere in the environment, and there’s no way to produce food on a large scale that contains no trace of these contaminants.
Some residues are long-lasting remnants of chemicals like DDT, banned decades ago but still present in soil. And crops grown without pesticides often contain residues blown in by the wind or carried in water runoff from nearby or distant farms.
Residues may also be present in foods at levels below the limits of widely used testing methods. “None detected” isn’t the same as “zero.”
That said, foods grown in different ways can have substantially different levels of pesticide contamination.
The “pesticide-free” label may be used by farmers who don’t apply any synthetic herbicides, insecticides, or fungicides to their crops, much like organic farmers.