Organic farmers apply techniques first used thousands of years ago, such as crop rotations and the use of composted animal manures and green manure crops, in ways that are economically sustainable in today's world, according to the USDA. Pesticides, herbicides and other synthetic chemicals are not used. Animals are fed organic food.
Before a product can be labeled organic, a government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.
As of 2010, organic foods made up 4.2 percent of all U.S. retail food sales, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture
According to research, race, presence of children in the household, and income do not have a consistent effect on the likelihood of buying organic products.
Organic food used to be sold mostly in health food stores. By 2008, nearly half of all organic foods were purchased in conventional supermarkets, club stores and big-box stores like Target and WalMart.
According to the National Organic Program, which is part of the USDA and helps farms go organic, the number of organic farms increased by 1,109 – or more than 6 percent – between 2009 and 2011.
There is not enough organic produce and products to keep up with consumer demand. According to the USDA, farms have struggled at times to produce sufficient supply to keep up with the rapid growth in demand, leading to periodic shortages of organic products.
There is a fine of $10,000 per item for anyone who knowingly sells a non-organic product labeled with the USDA organic seal that features the words "USDA organic" inside a circle.
Eggs and poultry are now among the fastest-growing food products in the U.S. organic sector, the USDA says.
Each year a nonprofit organization called the Environmental Working Group puts out a list called "The Dirty Dozen," which lists 12 fruits and vegetables you should buy organic. Topping this year's list? Apples!
Special thanks to Jeanette Mulvey, Business News Daily, Managing Editor