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AGRICULTURE REPORT — November 12, 2002: Organic Food Labeling - 2002-11-08

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

Last month, Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman announced a program that will set new rules for “organic” agricultural products in the United States. Mizz Venemen said the new rules will increase public trust in the organic food industry.

Organic foods represent a fast-growing market of products that provide a choice for the American public. Americans can now buy products that are grown or raised without added chemicals.

New laws for organic foods make the use of the word “organic” the same throughout the food industry. Americans who buy an organic product can now be sure that government rules support that claim.

Under the new rules, organic meat, chicken, eggs and milk products must come from animals that have not been given drugs or chemicals to increase growth. Organic crops must be grown without using most chemical pesticides that kill insects and other crop-destroying organisms. There are also restrictions on the kind of fertilizers used for plants that are to be marked “organic.” In general, organic farmers grow or raise food using reusable resources.

For the first time, any product that is marked “all organic” must now contain one-hundred-percent organic material. A product that calls itself “organic” must be at least ninety-five percent organic. And a product must contain seventy-percent organic material to claim that it is “made with organic” substances.

The Department of Agriculture says it makes no claims that organic foods are safer than other products. However, many people consider organic foods healthier. Americans will now be able to know if a food product is organic by a newly designed sign, or label, from the Department of Agriculture. Food producers can chose to put the label on their products if they meet federal requirements.

Organic foods are not a new development in food production. They have been grown in the United States since the late nineteen-forties. In fact, so-called organic ways of growing and raising food are the oldest ways. The need to show a difference between organic and non-organic production has come about in modern times. Oil-based fertilizers, genetic engineering and man-made growth chemicals have made labeling products “organic” necessary.

This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by Mario Ritter.