USDA Organic Requirements and Criteria

I often wondered what the USDA organic requirements are for growing organic food.  It has become more of a question because I want to use organic seeds.  But are they also non-GMO?  I found the chart below in a textbook.*  So it seems clear that organic seed should be non-GMO because #2 says:  The crops must not be genetically engineered. USDA Organic Requirements and Criteria

USDA Criteria for Certifying Crops as Organic:

  1. The land must be free of prohibited substances for 3 years.
  2. The crops must not be genetically engineered.
  3. The crops must not be irradiated to kill bacteria.
  4. Sewage sludge cannot be used.
  5. Use of organic seed and planting stock is preferred.
  6. Farmers must not use synthetic fertilizers.  Only crop rotation, cover crops, animal or crop wastes, or approved synthetic materials are allowed.
  7. Use of most conventional pesticides is prohibited.  Crop pests, weeds and diseases should be managed with biocontrol, mechanical practices or approved synthetic substance.

USDA Criteria for Livestock to be Considered Organic:

  1. Mammals must be raised organically from the last third of gestation; poultry from the second day of life.
  2. Livestock feed must be 100% organic, however, vitamin and mineral supplements are allowed.
  3. Dairy cows must receive 80% organic feed for 9 months, followed by 3 months of 100% organic feed.
  4. Hormones and antibiotics are prohibited; vaccines are permitted.
  5. Animals must have access to the outdoors.

*This chart adapted from the National Organic Program 2002.  Organic Production and Handling Standards.  Washington DC: US Department of Agriculture.  The chart was in Environment:  The Science Behind the Stories 4th edition by Jay Withgott & Scott Brennan 2011.