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What is the Difference between Organic and Natural?

Genetically modified kiwis, oranges and other fruits can carry a "natural" label.
Certified organic growers cannot use harmful chemicals but natural growers may not have the same restrictions.
One of the chief differences between "organic" and "natural" lies in how a given government defines the terms.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 September 2014
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Not long ago, organic would have been defined as those things derived from plant or living materials. Today there are strict standards in many countries about what foods can be labeled organic. The terms organic and natural can be confusing ones because they may imply things that are made from nature, but aren't necessarily the same.

Foods can be labeled organic and natural, which means they tend to lack chemically produced substances, but when a food is called organic, this takes the matter one step further. It means that the producer of the food has created the food under strict and regulated circumstances. Government organizations like the US Department of Agriculture create standards, which foods must meet in order to be considered organic and carry an organic label. These foods tend to be free of hormones, are only treated with pesticides considered “organic,” and the food is produced in a region where organic food production is possible. It can take several years for a farm to convert to the standards required to consistently get that organic label.

Sometimes the line between organic and natural is confused because it would make sense to think of foods that are minimally processed as containing no pesticides. One of the main differences between organic and natural is the way the government defines these terms. When you buy organic foods they must meet certain defined standards.

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At present most governments do not have an official definition of natural. They may go so far as to describe natural as not chemically produced, but there is little to no certification for “natural foods” or things called “all-natural.” When a food is natural, that really doesn’t tell you much about it, nor does the description guarantee a certain purity or safety of the product. A natural food, unless otherwise labeled, is not an organic food.

It’s important to understand the main differences between organic and natural then as regulatory and referring to foods that may have minimal processing. Some natural foods can be defined as foods left in close to original form. This is not always the case, as for instance with terms like natural flavoring. Natural flavors can be made in laboratories and contain things we wouldn’t ordinarily think of as food sources like certain oils or meat byproducts. These flavors do have to be made of foods, but they are foods that have no nutritive value in a product, and may or may not have been produced organically.

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win199
Post 4

@ChickenLover - I almost feel like people are in the frame of mind that it's "too little, too late" and don't even try... even if many of them all ready know the difference between natural and organic products. It never hurts to try should be the bottom line. I've made a slight switch and I love it. I haven't noticed much of a difference myself, either.

ChickenLover
Post 3

@turtlez - I also think that many people consider organic and natural products to be the answer to all those horrible hormonal and chemical situations that seem to keep popping up. The truth is, whether you're using natural cosmetics or not, you're going to get the same result and it is meant to do the same thing. I am definitely pro-organic, however, since this planet is going down the tubes.

bbpuff
Post 2

@turtlez - I think people feel like they are "getting back to nature" so to speak, which is simply not the case. Maybe with things like organic soap or organic shampoos I could see that, but no one should think for a second that everything they are getting themselves into is a hundred percent what they are looking for.

turtlez
Post 1

Natural and organic products are definitely quickly becoming a hot commodity all over the world. I can definitely feel the "craze" in the United States. I think one common misconception people have, though, is that eating all organic or natural foods is going to solve all of our problems, but that's not true.

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