What is the difference between Organic and Certified Organic?

I get asked this question a lot mostly because the price difference between the 2 is quite substantial. Coconut oil for instance.. I purchase organic for $3.99 for 750ml while certified organic is $22 for 550 ml.

So why the price difference? Aren’t I still getting wholesome ingredients?

The use of the terms organic and certified organic can often be confusing. People are referring to one thing when they really mean another.

First lets talk about the term organic.

For chemists, and for the food industry, the term organic refers (roughly) to any compound containing carbon. On that definition, most of the molecules you’ll find inside a human are “organic.” But in the same way gasoline or propane contains “organic” compounds. You’ll find carbon and carbon compounds in anything that is living and in anything that has ever been a living thing—coal and fossils.

“Organic” contains carbon. “Inorganic” doesn’t. So if it grows, it legitimately earns the label “organic.” Already, then, you see that organic isn’t all that useful a term for those of us concerned with the quality of products we put into our bodies.

As applied to food, the term organic loosely refers to living things produced in natural environments without the aid of man-made synthetic products. In the United States and Canada to legally be branded “organic,” a product must contain at least 95% organic products, not counting salt or water. But there are no official government regulations at all for labeling “organic” personal care products. Any cosmetic product, then, can legally bear the label “organic.” I have touched on this before about Herbal Essence and how it’s not actually herbal and has more synthetic materials than other non “herbal” brands.
In many settings and for many purposes, “organic” is little more than an advertising ploy. Check labels in your supermarket or drugstore, and you’ll quickly come to recognize organic as a marketing term used to boost sales because of the term’s association in the mainstream imagination with health. Yes it’s better for you than a chemical laden food item, but it’s still not a “whole” food.

When a plant food or plant food ingredient is “organically grown,” this essentially means that the plant has been grown, harvested and processed without using synthetic chemicals such as insecticides, fumigants, herbicides, and fungicides. Health food stores are full of such “organic” foods and other products but not every “organic” food is safe or desirable, let alone meets the standards for healthy eating. A piece of cake is still a piece of cake, just because it’s “organic” doesn’t mean you can have more of it.

The term organic gets more undeserved mileage than it should when it comes to food labels.
The term Certified Organic, however, is different. As the word implies, a Certified Organic product comes from a supplier whose products have been pronounced upon by an independent third party that guarantees the integrity and purity of foods or ingredients. Certified Organic products must comply with strict international standards. These higher standards cover all aspects of processing, ensuring that the organic integrity is maintained from the seed or primary state, through the growing, harvesting, storage, transporting and processing stages, all the way to the finished product. A key feature of these standards is the exclusion of genetically modified organisms. Usually you will see no or non GMO.

The right to the “Certified Organic” label is neither cheap nor easy to acquire. Government regulations prescribe detailed standards. Producers file extensive paperwork. Certifying agents review processes and products meticulously. Try to buy “Certified Organic” whenever you can. You will pay extra for it though!


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