Organic, Sustainable, Natural: What’s the Difference?

By Mary Gregoire

The terms organic, sustainable, locally grown and natural often seem to be used interchangeably when discussing food, but they are not the same. Organic foods may not be locally grown, locally grown foods are not necessarily sustainable or organic, and natural foods may not be organic, sustainable or locally grown.

Organic is the only term that has been legally defined. Food items sold as “certified organic” meet regulations in the U.S. Organic Foods Production Act of 1990. Organic foods are grown in soil that is free from synthetic products for a specified number of years and without the addition of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides.

Organic animals and poultry are fed organic feed and are free of synthetic antibiotics. Organic products need to be kept separate from non-organic products during the production and distribution process. Also, records must be kept for all organic products as they travel from the farm to the store to our plates. Certified organic foods carry the USDA certified organic label. Although some believe that organic foods are locally grown on smaller farms, this is not part of the organic regulations. Today many organic products are raised on large farms and transported across the country. Continue reading