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For products such as bread, state they are either natural or organic, what is the difference?

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up vote 14 down vote accepted

Natural is purely a marketing term, and it is essentially meaningless since it isn't regulated by the USDA (I'm assuming you are in the USA, I can't speak for other countries). Since the term isn't regulated (with the apparent exception of meat), any manufacturer can put it on any (non-meat) product that they want, weather it is actually "natural" or not.

Organic is well-defined by the USDA and places a number of restrictions on the types of pesticides and other chemicals that can be used to grow the crop. For things like meat, the organic label regulates both the drugs that the animal is given as well as the production of the feed.

Certified organic food products are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and produced by farmers and manufacturers under a strict set of rules. But the agency defines the term "natural" only for meat and poultry. In the rest of the food industry, the meaning is largely up to the producer.

See: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2009-07-10/business/chi-natural-foods-10-jul10_1_organics-or-least-chip-popular-horizon-organic-brand-organic-industry-watchdog-group

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There is a certification for "Naturally Grown" also. –  justkt Aug 24 '10 at 17:51
    
of course "organic" is a massive marketing hoax as well. ALL meat, plant material, etc. etc. is organic matter. There are very few things in our diet that aren't organic matter (salt comes to mind). Independent studies of "organic farms" also constantly find them to be rife with pesticides, herbicides, and all the other stuff they claim not to use. –  jwenting May 19 '11 at 7:41
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Natural "Natural foods" and "all natural foods" are widely used terms in food labeling and marketing with a variety of definitions, some of which are vague. The term is assumed to imply foods that are minimally processed and do not contain manufactured ingredients, but the lack of standards in some jurisdictions means that the term assures nothing. The term "organic" has similar implications and has an established legal definition in many countries and an international standard. In some places, the term "natural" is defined and enforced. In others, such as the United States, it has no meaning.

Organic Organic foods are those that are produced using environmentally sound methods that do not involve modern synthetic inputs such as pesticides and chemical fertilizers, do not contain genetically modified organisms, and are not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives.

(Information from Wikipedia)

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"that do not involve modern synthetic inputs such as pesticides " That's a major flaw, as "organic farms" often use more of those than regular ones. (or used to, the study I saw on it was some years ago, showed 10 times the pesticides on a large sample of "organic" fruit and produce as compared to normal fruit from the same region. –  jwenting May 19 '11 at 7:43
    
@jwenting: Even that criticism (while perhaps true) suffers from lack of definition. There are organic pesticides that can be used while retaining the "organic" label. And (presumably, if not in fact) such pesticides would be safe(r?) than a non-organic pesticide. So having 10x more of a non-harmful substance than a harmful substance isn't really a very interesting statistic. Of course maybe your study found that non-organic pesticides were indeed being used, but without seeing the actual study, it's impossible to conclude that it means "organic" is meaningless. –  Flimzy Feb 18 '12 at 21:42
    
It's important to note an "organic" certification does not, in any way mean food is produced "using environmentally sound methods." It simply means the food is free from certain chemicals during production. It is still possible (and indeed common) to raise organic foods in ways that exploit natural resources--such as slashing and burning rain forests, irresponsible irrigation methods, etc. While I believe "organic" is generally going to be better than non-organic, for the purpose of human health, don't be fooled into thinking "organic" means "completely environmentally-neutral." –  Flimzy Feb 18 '12 at 21:46
    
@Flimzy botulism, anthrax, Ebola, are all "natural". While not used as pesticides, there are those who consider human beings to be pests and they work very well against human beings. Just because something is "natural" then doesn't make it safe. Similarly, a lot of things that aren't "natural" are quite safe. The whole "natural pesticide" thing together with "organic farming" is just bunch of balony, pure marketing trickery to fool people into paying excessively high prices for otherwise ordinary (and often substandard) produce. –  jwenting Feb 20 '12 at 6:59
    
@jwenting: I never made the claim that natural == safe. And there's certainly a lot of wiggle room in the terms. But that makes them "pure baloney." "Organic" in particular has a specific legal meaning, and maintaining compliance with that label requires real effort and expense. As such, the label can be useful--especially to those who actually take the time to understand what it means, and that it isn't some sort of magic bullet. –  Flimzy Feb 20 '12 at 7:26
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From http://www.organicfacts.net/organic-food/organic-food-basics/difference-between-organic-and-natural-food.html

Organic food refers to food items that are produced, manufactured and handled using organic means defined by certifying bodies such as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) under its Organic Food Products Act. Natural food, on the other hand, generally refers to food items that are not altered chemically or synthesized in any form. These are derived from plants and animals. Thus a natural food item is not necessarily organic and vice versa.

as far as I understand it, there's really no clear definition to either of these two terms and they're mostly overused by companies to sell you products. I believe the use of "Natural" is a little more devious. For instance, I just bought some "Natural Style" apple juice the other day. I'm sure it's just as processed and pasteurized, it's just a slightly different flavor/color.

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"Natural Style"? That's kind of like those movies that are "inspired by actual events"... In other words, a complete work of fiction except with the names of actual places and people... –  GalacticCowboy Aug 9 '10 at 20:20
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@GalacticCowboy See also "juice beverage". –  ceejayoz Aug 9 '10 at 22:11
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I wouldn't say that there is no clear definition to organic in the US. There are actually quite strict certification procedures that you must undergo before you can legally claim that any food you sell is organic. For instance, because I use 10-10-10 fertilizer in my garden I cannot sell my produce in a farmers market as organic. These restrictions span across both animal and vegetable products. You can find all the details on the government website, including the text of the actual bill in Congress that enacted these regulations [here][1]. [1]: ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/nop –  Naseer Aug 24 '10 at 15:35
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