What’s In A Name: Organic By The Numbers

If you’ve spent time with an environmentalist in the past few years, you’ve probably had a conversation that went something like this:


You: I’ve switched to organic peanut butter! After two months, it tastes normal to me. I feel like I’m protecting my health and saving the world!

Crunchy: The organic label means nothing. It’s weak and getting weaker, and half the time they’re legally allowed to use the word on products that are only half organic.

You: I just remembered I have to go meet someone at a thing…

Unfortunately, there’s some truth to Crunchy’s complaints. Environmental health writer Mindy Pennybacker clears things up with a neat little organic breakdown, in her just-released green living book Do One Green Thing: Saving The Earth Through Simple, Everyday Choices (foreword by Meryl Streep).

Basically, if you’re in the camp that says the votes you make with your wallet are some of the most important ones you make, you'll want to look for labels that read “100% organic.” Any product that's labeled "organic" but is missing that critical "100%" out front is duping you. Both of these classes of organic bear the official USDA Organic label, but the latter can be made with as low as 95% organic ingredients (better, of course, than nothing).

Beyond that, many companies are cashing in on the green wave by using the “made with organic” label, which requires only 70% organic ingredients. These products will not bear the USDA seal, but their use of the O word seems sneaky nonetheless.

Not too difficult to guess which label Michelle O. would lean toward.

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