Organic Food Rules

By George Grow

This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

The United States Department of Agriculture has established national requirements for organic food products. The requirements come more than ten years after Congress ordered the development of such rules.

Currently, different state and private groups establish organic food requirements in the United States. Each group uses its own rules to decide which products may be called organic.

Organic food is one of the fastest growing areas in American agriculture. The Agriculture Department estimates that American farmers sold six-thousand million dollars worth of organic food last year.

Farmers who grow organic food do not use chemicals to increase their crops or to control insects and disease. Many people believe that eating organic food is more healthful than eating food produced with chemicals. And, some people are willing to pay more for such food products.

The Agriculture Department says there are more than twelve-thousand farmers in the United States who grow food organically. Most of them produce only a small amount of food. Yet, the number of organic farmers is increasing at a rate of about twelve percent each year.

The new requirements set rules for what food products can be considered organic. For example, at least ninety-five percent of the materials used in foods called organic must be organic. Products will be permitted to use the words "made with organic ingredients" if at least seventy percent of their materials are organic.

In addition, a state or private agency approved by the Agriculture Department must document which farms or businesses are truly producing organic foods.

The rules bar the use of genetic engineering, the process of changing the genes of living things. They bar the use of waste products to fertilize organic food. They also bar treatments with radiation to kill bacteria on food products.

Farmers and food companies have eighteen months to start obeying the new requirements. Americans will begin to see the effect of the rules in their local stores by the summer of Two-Thousand-One.

Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman praised the requirements. He called them, the strongest and most complete organic food rules in the world.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow.

Voice of America Special English