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Natural vs. Organic Food: What's the Difference?

April 15, 2014
Onions and peppers in the sunshine.

Many people go about their grocery shopping under the assumption that “natural” and “organic” foods are one and the same. However, this isn't the case. Organic foods must follow strict growing regulations, but natural foods don’t really have concrete guidelines for production.

For food to be considered organic, it must be grown according to the National Organic Program rules and regulations. Some tenets of the NOP include:

  • Sewage sludge, prohibited pesticides, and GMOs were not used
  • Livestock were not fed antibiotics or growth hormones and had good health and welfare

  • Livestock were fed 100% organic feed and were given access to the outdoors

If a farmer sells more than $5,000 worth of produce or livestock per year and wishes to be considered organic, they must be certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture or a private certifying agency. In Georgia, only these private agencies perform certifications.

If a farmer sells less than $5,000 of produce or livestock in a year, they can be considered exempt from organic certification requirements, but must still abide by NOP rules and regulations.

For food to be considered all natural, it must be grown without the use of pesticides or antibiotics. These are only tentative guidelines and are not regulated by any kind of agency such as the USDA.

For more information on organic foods and details on how they are produced, visit the Georgia Department of Agriculture website and learn about the process of this specific type of farming.


About the Author

A Georgia native, Rachael Wheeler works as a Web Support Specialist for GeorgiaGov. She writes about a variety of current topics relevant to the Georgia government. 


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