the labels out there ó organic, cage-free, natural ó but
what does it all mean?
trying to make better shopping choices for the environment by
choosing "greener" or ethically made products, youíre
going to be bombarded by dozens of labels purporting to
measure up to a certain standard, and probably charging more
money for the goods.
be fooled. Be an informed consumer by taking a few minutes to
familiarize yourself with a few common terms and
certifications, so you can avoid being "greenwashed."
for the USDA Organic label. The U.S. Department of Agriculture
certifies what food and fiber products meet federal
regulations to be called organic and can carry the circular
"USDA Organic" label.
certification means they were grown and processed according to
federal guidelines addressing, among many factors, soil
quality, animal-raising practices and use of additives.
Farmers canít apply synthetic pesticides or herbicides or
use genetically modified seeds. No other "eco" label
out there has federal regulations behind it, said Connie Karr,
certification director at Oregon Tilth, a USDA-accredited
certification organization that inspects farms to ensure
see terms like natural, cage-free or pasture-raised on a
product without the USDA organic label, there are no strict
guidelines. "Those are claims that a company can make,
but thereís no federal regulation to them. (They) could mean
a hundred different things to a hundred different
people," Karr said.
percent certified organic products get to display the USDA
seal. If a packaged product says it is made with organic
ingredients, that means at least 70 percent of those
ingredients are organically produced and the rest are made
without prohibited practices. These wonít have the USDA
seal, but they must identify the USDA-accredited certifier.
Goldstein, vice president of brand at Organic Valley, a
farmer-owned cooperative, said thereís been some confusion
about "organic" and "non-GMO" labels.
Organic is always non-GMO, he said. Products raised
conventionally can say they have non-GMO ingredients, but
there are no federal certifications or inspections required
for non-GMO goods.
certification is an expensive and long process for farmers,
and those costs are passed on to consumers, which is why
organic commands a premium price. Itís also why many
third-party labels popped up in recent years ó trying to get
on the trend while bypassing federal regulations.
looking at these third-party labels that donít include USDA
certification, consumers should research what the
certifications mean, said Ioannis Kareklas, assistant
professor of marketing at the University at Albany, who
co-edited the 2017 book "Deciphering Organic Foods"
and works with farmers.
we get more Ö labels, you have to follow the trail and
figure out whoís providing the certifications, what are
their motivations and their financial incentive. In some
cases, they might be just as trustworthy, and in other cases,
they might not be," he said.
in your egg. Labels like cage-free are targeted at meat, dairy
and eggs. Those terms may conjure up images of small Norman
Rockwell-esque farms, but again, Goldstein and Karr say that
only organic products have specific guidelines about animal
welfare and access to outside. Nonorganic cage-free only means
the hens arenít confined in cages, but they could live in a
crowded room with tens of thousands of birds. Nonorganic
pasture-raised means birds have access to the outside, but
they may not go, and that "pasture" could be a
screened-in porch with a concrete floor.
Goldstein said the organic industry pushed for more definitive
animal welfare standards that might have cleared up confusion
on terms like pasture-raised, which even under the current
organic rules arenít well-defined. However, regulations
passed under the Obama administration to go into effect this
quarter will not be implemented by the Trump administration,
people who want to start buying some organic foods, Karr and
Goldstein recommended the Environmental Working Groupís
Shopperís Guide to Pesticides in Produce and its Dirty Dozen
list, which points out which produce is best to buy
organically, due to high levels of synthetic pesticides in
conventional food. Strawberries, spinach and nectarines top
Textiles too. Organic certification also covers natural fibers
like cotton and wool, but definitions can get blurry once
fibers become textiles, said Marci Zaroff, founder and chief
executive officer of MetaWear, an organic textiles
manufacturer who is on the board of directors of the Organic
organic seal governs fiber used in products like cotton swabs.
For textiles like apparel, bedsheets and mattresses, look for
the Global Organic Textile Standard seal, a private industry
standard that the USDA adopted as a complement to the organic
label, she said.
is a standard that has been adopted all over the world as the
platinum standard for a certified finished organic
textile," Zaroff said.
the GOTS seal, the item must be certified organic from the
agricultural fiber to the finished product ó through the
entire supply chain. That includes avoiding toxic pesticides
and processing chemicals and ensures fair working conditions.
no cleaner, greener textile products than a GOTS-certified
product," she said.