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The Details Make a Difference - Does Organic and Natural Mean the same Thing

By: Steve Frailey Wednesday September 2, 2020 comments Tags: organic farming, healthy eating, organic food

What does “Organic” mean?

The term “organic” refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. The USDA requires organic crops to be grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, GMOs, petroleum-based fertilizers, and sewage sludge-based fertilizers. Click here for more on organic farming practices

Does "Organic" and "Natural" mean the same thing?

No, "natural" and "organic" are not interchangeable terms. In general, "natural" on a food label means that it has no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. It does not refer to the methods or materials used to produce the food ingredients.

Organic or not? Check the label:

  • 100% Organic: This description is used on USDA certified organic fruits, vegetables, eggs, meat or other single-ingredient foods. May also be used on multi-ingredient foods if all of the ingredients are certified organic. These may have a USDA seal.
  • Organic: If a multi-ingredient food is labeled organic, and at least 95% to 99% of the ingredients are certified organic. These may have a USDA seal.
  • Made with organic ingredients: At least 70% to 94% certified organic ingredients. The ingredient label must identify which ingredients are organic. These products may not carry a USDA seal.
  • Organic ingredients: If less than 70% of a multi-ingredient product is not certified organic. The ingredient list can indicate which ingredients are organic. These products may not carry a USDA seal.

Benefits of consuming organic food:

  • Organic farming practices reduce pollution, conserve water, reduce soil erosion, increase soil fertility, and require less energy. 
  • Organic food is automatically GMO-free. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) or genetically engineered (GE) foods are foods whose DNA has been altered in ways that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding.
  • Organically grown produce has lower detectable levels of pesticide residue. 

Did you know? A study conducted on more than 94,000 food samples by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, found at least one pesticide residue on approximately 75% of conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. Only approximately 25% of organically grown vegetables had pesticide residue.

  • Organically grown fruits and vegetables appear to contain approximately 15% more nutrients and antioxidants than conventionally grown produce. 

Did you know? The average distance a meal travels from the farm to the dinner plate in the U.S. is over 1,500 miles! 

Produce is usually harvested while unripe then either gassed to “ripen”, or the food is processed using preservatives, waxes, irradiation, and other means to keep it stable for transport.

Organic food vs. locally-grown food

Unlike organic standards, there is no specific definition for “local food”. Locally-grown food could be grown in your local community, state, region, or country and not be certified organic. 

Organic Certification Requirements:

  • Crops must be produced on land without the use of synthetic substances (pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers)
  • No prohibited substances can have been applied to the land for 3 years
  • The land must have buffer zones preventing the crop to have contact with prohibited substances from adjoining land
  • Soil fertility and crop nutrient management must be done in a manner to improve soil conditions and minimize soil erosion
  • Use of uncomposted plant materials
  • Hand weeding and mechanical cultivation
  • Management practices to suppress the spread of disease

The Hawaiian Organic Noni Way

It all starts with Mother Nature friendly practices to help build healthy soils, that grow healthy plants and trees. We have never used prohibited materials on our land. With the USDA organic certification, organic farmers must develop an organic operating farm plan, which is overseen by their certification agency with annual third-party inspections. We learned from experience over the years what really works on our farm. Mulch, making compost in a very specific way, growing worms for worm castings, and making compost teas are all techniques that are worth the work! 



Steve Frailey

About the Author: Steve Frailey

My wife and I (Steve Frailey) moved to Kauai, Hawaii in 1982 from our organic farm in California. There were no roads, electricity, water or buildings but lots of Noni trees (Morinda Citrifolia) in our valley. We also developed a deep relationship with Noni that was growing all through our valley.  Today we run our Hawaiian Organic Noni farm, and share the gift of health with people throughout the world.