I have this idea that if I buy high quality olive oil from non-industrial producers then it doesn't need an "organic" label because olives are pretty resistant and don't require that much pesticide.

Is this correct?

  • 2
    We can't provide advice on what to buy. However, I'd say that the underlying question about how much regular olive oil is "treated" is probably on topic, so I've edited the question to fit with our guidelines.
    – Aaronut
    Commented Apr 29, 2013 at 23:55
  • In my experience, organic olive oils are often more rancid even when I first open the bottle! This is probably due to their having been harvested longer ago than the much-more-commonly-available non-organic oils.
    – Geremia
    Commented Mar 23, 2018 at 0:34

5 Answers 5


Olive oil degrades over time so freshness is important. Some of the higher priced olive oils sit on shelves for a very long time and by time they are sold they can be of lower quality than some mass produced olive oils.

I'd say you're in the right frame of mind and would recommend finding a brand with a local representative who can trust and know the source and timing of the oil.

Many smaller olive oil producers don't bother with organic certification because of cost, but they have same or better standards. Therefore there is a sweet-spot where you can get quality olive oil similar to organics at decent prices.

Keep in mind good olive oil is produced in many places, including Greece, Spain, and Lebanon. Not just Italy.

  • Thanks! Sorry I dont have enough credit to upvote yet... Commented May 2, 2013 at 21:47

"Organic" is not only about pesticides.

Other factors that would prevent something being labelled "organic" include:

  • use of inorganic fertilizers (mined phosphates etc)
  • use of farmland that has been non-organically fertilized in recent past
  • lack of record keeping to show that organic steps have been taken

It's entirely likely that olives for olive oil have been fertilized with inorganic fertilizer.

It's also not unusual for olive oil (and many other products) to be produced to 100% organic standards, but for the producers to not feel it worthwhile to spend the money and effort required to get certification.


It is not really correct that olives don't need pesticides. Olives are subject to be attacked and eventually destroyed by different kinds of parasites, for instance the olive fruit fly, one of the most serious pests in the cultivation of olives.

Also, olives tree can be attacked by fungus, bacteria, and parasites.

What is true, on the contrary, is that the olive trees are quite resistant to cold weather. They can go below freezing with no substantial damage (depending on the subspecies).

An "organic" label certifies that no synthetic chemical products are used. Of course, if you want to be completely sure that you are not using contaminated oil, you should avoid the possibility that pesticides are being used (i.e., it should have an organic label).

About the quantity of pesticide used, it's really difficult to give an answer. It depends on too many factors: where the olive trees are located, the laws of the country regarding pesticides, the 'common sense' of the producer.

In this interesting blog post (sorry it is in Italian, you can try with google translate) they explain that to have an organic oil you are allowed to use biological treatments (killer insects, biological pesticides, and so on) which guarantee that you have no residual pesticide in your oil.

This is the only guaranteed way to have organic oil.

  • 7
    Just because it says organic doesn't necessarily mean no chemical products were used. A lot of organic certification schemes allow pesticides that have been derived from 'natural' sources. I'll refrain from critiquing the inconsistencies of this approach as it's not really on topic.
    – Stefano
    Commented Apr 30, 2013 at 15:29

Another advantage of organic olive oil is that the producers are required to use tinted glass for the bottles. Oil stored in tinted glass bottles has longer shelf life because such glass filters UV light which is principally responsible for the deterioration in oil quality especially the for loss of vitamin E over time. This is valid for Europe, I am not sure whether in the USA the same standards are in force.


I understand organic standard involves testing for adulteration (mixing lower quality and fake oils in) along with checking for pesticide residues etc. So organic can mean you are more likely to get 100% extra virgin. But scams happen with organic too, especially imports from other countries to the US.

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