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One Nation, Organically Grown

How does the new National Organic Program affect organic foods and farming, today and tomorrow? For consumers, it informs, guarantees, and still leaves a lot to think about.

by Elaine Marie Lipson

Organic foods and organic farming have truly become a part of our culinary and agricultural landscape. If you've been an organic eater for some time, even if only occasionally, it's hard to imagine being without organic choices. With the appearance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "USDA Organic" seal on foods as of October 21, 2002, you may logically be asking what organic means now, and how federal regulations may change a food production system that you've embraced.

The USDA Organic seal is the culmination of a long journey toward uniform national standards for the organic label with oversight by USDA's National Organic Program (NOP). What will it mean for you? First, we'll look at the practical highlights of the legislation: what's allowed, what's prohibited, and who must comply; then, some exploration of the broader implications for food, farming, and consumer choices.

Elaine Marie Lipson is the author of The Organic Foods Sourcebook (Contemporary Books, a division of Mcgraw-Hill, 2001), a consumer guidebook that answers the most-asked questions about organic foods and farming. She writes about organic foods, natural health, the environment, and textile arts and crafts from her home outside of Boulder, Colo. The Organic Foods Sourcebook is available wherever books are sold (support your independent bookseller).

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