Organic Matters

What is Organic?

The national organic standards were fully implemented in October 2002. After more than a dozen years in the making, these standards give consumers clear and consistent product labeling, as well as the added assurance of a uniform set of standards backed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Generally speaking, organic food and fiber crops are made without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. Specifically prohibited from organic crops are genetically modified organisms (GMO), irradiation, and the use of sewage sludge; all three practices are permissible in conventional agriculture. The USDA requires farms and production facilities, except for very small farms, to be certified organic before their products can claim to be organic.


Under USDA regulations, certified organic products will be labeled in one of several ways:

100 percent organic: These products have been made using ingredients, processing and handling methods and materials that are in full compliance with the USDA standards for organic agriculture. They will have a label reading "100 percent organic," and the USDA organic seal may appear on the primary display panel.

Organic: These products contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients (excluding water or salt). They are eligible for the organic label provided the remaining 5 percent of the products' ingredients are not commercially available in an organic form, and also that the remaining 5 percent of the ingredients were not produced using specifically prohibited methods (i.e., irradiation). These products will be labeled "organic" and may carry the USDA organic seal on the primary display panel. All Santa Cruz Organic brand products are certified at this level.

Made with organic ingredients: Products labeled "Made with organic ingredients" must contain between 70 and 95 percent organic ingredients, excluding water and salt. As many as three of the product's organic ingredients may be listed on the front of the package. For instance, a box containing cereal made with organic ingredients might read "Made with organic corn, oats and sugar" on the front panel. The USDA organic seal may not be used on these products.

Products with less than 70 percent organic ingredients: Labels on these products will be allowed to list the organic items in the ingredients panel only, and the term "organic" may not be used anywhere else on the package. The USDA organic seal may not be used on these products.

Certified Organic History

The implementation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program in 2012, enacted regulations and standards that products labeled "organic" are truly organic. Since then, the organic industry has shown increased growth and heightened consumer awareness. All Santa Cruz Organic brand by products meet, or exceeds these standards.

Organic Awareness: According to a 2011 study by the Organic Trade Association, 78% of U.S. families say they are choosing organic food, up from 73% in 2009. The study also indicates that four in ten families are buying more organic products than they were a year ago and that 72% of parents are familiar with the USDA organic seal, up significantly from 65% in 2009.

Organic Acreage: According to the USDA Economic Research service, Organic farming has been one of the fastest growing segments of U.S. agriculture for over a decade. Certified organic acreage in the U.S. surpassed more than 4.8 million acres in 2008, up from 127,432 acres in 2001 and doubling between 2002 and 2005. Consumers who purchase Santa Cruz Organic products are helping to promote certified organic acreage.


  • "2011 U.S. Families' Organic Attitudes & Beliefs Tracking Study," 2011, Organic Trade Association.
  • "Organic Production," 2008-2012, USDA Economic Research Service.

Why Choose Organic?

Organic Products Meet Stringent Standards: Organic certification is the public's assurance that products have been grown and handled according to strict procedures. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's certified organic seal lets consumers know which products are certified organic, and assures them that the products have met government standards.

Organic Food Tastes Great: It's common sense: Well-balanced soils grow strong, healthy plants, which grow great tasting food!

Organic Farms Respect Our Water Resources: The reduction of polluting chemicals and nitrogen leaching, done in combination with soil building, protects and conserves water resources.

Organic Farmers Work in Harmony with Nature: Soil is the primary focus of organic farming. By building soil, organic growers help prevent soil erosion, which has become a major problem in U.S. agricultural centers.

Organic Producers Are Leaders in Innovative Research: Organic farmers have led the way, largely at their own expense, with innovative on-farm research aimed at minimizing agriculture's impact on the environment.

Organic Producers Strive to Preserve Diversity: The loss of a large variety of species (biodiversity) can have unforeseen and detrimental effects on our environment. Organic farmers and gardeners have been collecting and preserving seeds, and growing unusual varieties for decades.

Organic Farming Helps Keep Rural Communities Healthy: Organic farming may be one of the few survival tactics left for the family farm and the rural community. By choosing organic practices, farmers create a value-added product that can be sold at a premium.

Organic Is Abundant: Now every food category has an organic alternative. And nonfood agricultural products are being grown organically – even cotton, which most experts felt couldn't happen.

Organic Producers Are Leaders in Innovative Research: Organic farmers have led the way, largely at their own expense, with innovative on-farm research aimed at minimizing agriculture's impact on the environment.