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Can any type of agricultural product become certified organic?

Yes, any agricultural product that meets certification requirements may be considered organic. A wide array of certified organic foods are becoming available, including coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate bars, pasta, prepared sauces, frozen juices, frozen meals, milk, ice cream and frozen novelties, cereals, meat, poultry, breads, soups, cookies, beer, wine, and vodka. These foods, in order to be certified organic, have all been grown and processed according to organic standards and must maintain a high level of quality.

Isn't organic food just a fad?

No! Organic foods have been a particularly bright spot on the agricultural horizon in recent years. U. S. retail sales of organic food grew from $1 billion in 1990, to $5.5 billion in 1998, $6.5 billion in 1999, and nearly $7.8 billion in 2000.

The market for organic foods worldwide has been growing at 20%­25% annually during the 1990s. Demand for organic products internationally is at an all time high and still growing rapidly. (statistics reported by U. S. Department of Agriculture, Foreign Agricultural Service, AgExporter June 2000.)

Business Facts on Organics

"Industry observers expect demand for organic products and commodities around the world to grow. Core support for organics is strongest among affluent, educated, health-conscious consumers. The motivations that first drew them to organics, such as concern for the environment and their personal health, are likely to endure. (U. S. Department of Agriculture, Foreign Agricultural Service, AgExporter June 2000.)

According to a study conducted in March 2001 by Roper Starch Worldwide for Walnut Acres, 63% of Americans buy organic foods and beverages at least some of the time. Forty percent of Americans say organic foods will be a bigger part of their diet within one year. (Who Is Eating Organic? And Why? March 2001.)

According to a January 25, 1999, United Nations Food and Agriculture announcement, "Consumer demand for organically produced food is on the rise and provides new market opportunities for farmers and businesses around the world." United Nations Food & Agriculture web site, 1999. Organic shoppers are significantly more likely than other shoppers to say their diet is very important, and that their food choices are influenced by environmental issues. In addition, college educated shoppers are the key market for organic products. (HealthFocus Inc., "What Do Consumers Want from Organics?" 1999.) Globally, consumers now spend $22 billion a year on organic products. Organic farming is the fastest growing sector in the agricultural economy. Nearly half of the major U. S. supermarkets now carry organic products. In Japan, demand is growing by more than 20% a year.

Consumer Facts on Organics

Demographics: Over 40% of all organic users are between 36­55 years old. Organic users are 25% more likely to have a bachelor¹s or post-graduate degree. Organic users and the general population are moving into closer alignment as organic products move into the mainstream consciousness. (Organic Consumer Trends 2001, Natural Marketing Institute.)

The "Organic Lifestyle Shopper Study 2000," conducted by the Hartman Group market research firm, reports that the top five motivators for organic food and beverage purchases are: health/nutrition, 66%; taste, 38%; food safety, 30%; environment, 26%; and availability, 16%. (Organic Lifestyle Shopper Study 2000, The Hartman Group.)

Environmental Facts on Organics

According to the 15-year study "Farming Systems Trial" conducted by the Rodale Institute of Pennsylvania, organic agriculture can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and, on average, uses 50% less energy than conventional farming methods. (Lori Drinkwater, "Legume-based Cropping Systems Have Reduced Carbon and Nitrogen Losses," Nature magazine, Nov. 18, 1998, pp. 262­265.)

Purchasing organic products will help keep our water supply clean.

Conventional agricultural methods can cause water contamination. Beginning in May 1995, tap water was tested for herbicides in cities across the United States¹ Corn Belt, and in Louisiana and Maryland. The results revealed widespread contamination of tap water with many different pesticides at levels that present serious health risks. In some cities, herbicides in tap water exceed federal lifetime health standards for weeks or months at a time. Toxic chemicals are contaminating groundwater on every inhabited continent, endangering the world's most valuable supplies of freshwater, according to a Worldwatch paper, Deep Trouble: The Hidden Threat of Groundwater Pollution. Several water utilities in Germany now pay farmers to switch to organic operations because this conversion costs less than removing farm chemicals from water supplies.

The environmental costs of using recommended pesticides in the United States are estimated to be $9 billion a year. 67 million birds are killed each year from the recommended use of pesticides. (David Pimentel, Environmental and Socio-Economic Costs of Pesticide Use, Techniques for Reducing Pesticide Use, 1997.)

The Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development has released a report entitled "Pesticides: Making the Right Choice for the Protection of Human Health and the Environment". The committee stated, ³Where possible, organic products should be chosen." It added, "There is a booming domestic and export market for organic foods. The advantages of organic farming are many: reduced soil erosion, retention of soil nutrients, surface and ground water that is uncontaminated by pesticides."

In coffee-growing countries, where there are fewer pollution controls in place, contamination of water supplies is even more serious, and the benefits of organic farming are even more significant.

Foodservice Industry Facts on Organics

Restaurant & Institution's Jan. 1, 1998 report "A Year to Flavor," lists organic produce as one of the year's biggest trends, stating: "Organic foods will play a burgeoning role in food service."

In Food & Wine magazine¹s 1997 Chef's Survey, administered by Louis Harris & Associates, 76 percent of those chefs surveyed responded "Yes" to the question, "Do you actively seek out organically grown ingredients?"

According to the U.S. National Restaurant Association, organic items are now offered by about 57 percent of restaurants with per person dinner cheques of $25 or more. In addition, 29 percent of restaurants with prices in the $15 to $24 range also offer organic items.

The winner of the "Award of Excellence" in the "Chef of the Year" category at the annual International Association for Culinary Professionals 1997 Awards Ceremony was chef Nora Pouillon, of Restaurant Nora in Washington, D.C. Pouillon estimates 95 percent of the ingredients used at Restaurant Nora are organic.

Renowned chefs who advocate using organic ingredients include: Alice Waters, Nora Pouillon, Rick Bayless, Jesse Cool, Stan Frankenthaler, Peter Hoffman, John Ash and Charlie Trotter.

In 1998 Swissair became the first air carrier to serve organic foods to passengers. The change came after surveys showed that customers wanted food that is "fresh and natural."

Organics is not just common sense anymore, now that business has found that consumers really want this they will also endeavor to protect the environment because it has become profitable.


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