USDA Organic

Do you know, what does it actually mean?


USDA Organic, Organic, Green Firebreak, packaging label, product label, reduce plastic

USDA stands for United States Department of Agriculture, and this week we going to discuss their organic label.

It is regulated by the National Organic Program (NOP), which is the federal regulatory program responsible for overseeing production, handling, labelling and enforcement of USDA Organic products.

When you are buying a product that claims to be organic, chances are that product is certified. In this case, if you stumble upon a product with this symbol, said product must meet a couple of requirements, such as:

  • Produced without excluded methods, ionizing radiation, or sewage sludge.

  • Overseen by a USDA NOP authorised certifying agent, following all USDA Organic regulations.

USDA Organic, Organic, Green Firebreak, packaging label, product label, reduce plastic

However, the USDA Organic certification is split into 3 different groups.

100 Percent Organic

  • All ingredients must be certified organic.

  • Any processing mechanism must be organic.


  • 95% of the ingredients must be of organic origin.

  • The remaining 5%, can be non-organic but must be part of the National List [2]

“Made with” organic

  • At least 70% of the products must contain certified organic ingredients.

  • The remaining product is not required to contain organic ingredients, however, those ingredients must be on the National List.

(In this last case the product might say “made with” organic ingredients, however must not have the USDA organic logo.)


One of the main elements of this symbol that is very telling it's that genetic engineering or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are prohibited. This means a farmer cannot plant GMO seeds nor have organic cows that eat GMO feed.

Also, farmers and processors, in order to get certified, have to prove that they are not using GMOs, and that they are protecting their products from forbidden substances until it reaches the final consumer.

Cosmetics and skincare products must follow the same rules aforementioned.

As you can see below, this is how a farmer is supposed to set its organic crops, the buffers on one side protect from unintended substances from the road and on the opposite side the trees reduce the erosion of soil.

USDA Organic, Organic, Green Firebreak, packaging label, product label, reduce plastic

Fun facts:

  • Livestock cannot be given antibiotics and/or growth hormones.

  • Livestock may not be continuously confined, needing to have access to pasture.

  • Livestock must have access to outdoor areas, shade and clean water.

  • Birds used for poultry or egg production must be raised organically at the beginning of the second day of life.

  • Pests’ management must be done using approved synthetic substances, though prevention over treatment is recommended.

Now, if you happen to see a product with the USDA symbol, you’ll have a better understanding of what the symbol actually means.

[1] Organic Regulations | Agricultural Marketing Service (

[2]The National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances identifies the synthetic substances that may be used and the nonsynthetic (natural) substances that may not be used in organic crop and livestock production. It also identifies a limited number of non-organic substances that may be used in or on processed organic products.