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What Does "Certfied Organic" Mean?

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Your produce is not just organic because a producer says so. There are detailed requirements to be fulfilled in order to qualify for this label. I'm outlining this in detail because I keep encountering skeptics who doubt that organic products are really organic. How do you know that the supermarket is not just putting an "organic" label on it in order to raise prices?

If you start farming organically on land that so far has been treated conventionally, it takes a few years of "conversion" until you can call yourself organic. Cattle farmers or beef and lamb meat producers like us had to start with letting your grass grow naturally, without the use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides. For that period, your produce is labeled "in conversion" after "an in-conversion license is granted to the successful applicant." In the meantime, from day one, the animals you have on your fields must be raised without medication and growth promoters.

In Ireland, IOFGA is the official organization that certifies that produce and meat etc. are really organically grown--and that means from start to finish (Irish Organic and Farmers Association).

"The conversion period is the time frame that occurs between applying to IOFGA to convert to organic farming and getting a full organic symbol. In most cases this is two years. When the conversion period is successfully completed a full organic symbol is granted allowing produce to be sold as organic and to display the IOFGA symbol." (

An inspector will come to your farm, write an inspection report that then will be examined by the Certification panel.

In Ireland over the past 10 years the organic market has enjoyed high levels of consistent growth. Even in times of economic pressure peoples' priorities are sourcing food which has been produced with an emphasis on environmental, ethical and health concerns.

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Perusing IOFGA's website, I see you can search growers by product or county. It shows who is in conversion and who is certified. IOFGA now runs classes on how to grow stuff organically (for school projects, hobby growers, allotment holders etc.)

For interested readers here in the USA, the American procedure and regulations are similar: click here;%20Wellness/organlab.htm

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Ursula Siebert, originally a German teacher & lecturer turned businesswoman, lived in different European countries before coming to the USA. She is now a free-lance writer. Often tongue-in-cheek, she sees life and politics in the USA from the (more...)

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