In a world full of environmental toxins in air, water and soil, labels on produce and products we buy can help to make informed choices about the health of the environment, your personal health and the health of the workers in the fields.
We are what we eat. Our health and well-being heavily depend on the food choices we make. Conventionally grown produce often uses synthetic inputs like chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and GMOs. We’re learning more and more about the related health issues (obesity, diabetes, cancer) that are linked to such practices.
Other than posing a threat to human health, conventional agriculture also causes increased greenhouse gas emissions, soil erosion, and water pollution.
Organic production emphasizes overall system health. It has a smaller carbon footprint, conserves and builds soil health, replenishes natural ecosystems for cleaner water and air, all without toxic pesticide residues.
The labels in this guide are trustworthy and carried out by an accredited certifying organization.
The USDA organic label has among the most meaningful standards for environmental sustainability including prohibiting synthetic fertilizers and industrial pesticides. Animals must eat only organically grown feed (without animal byproducts), can’t be treated with synthetic hormones or antibiotics, must have access to the outdoors, and ruminants (hoofed animals, including cows) must have access to pasture. GMOs are prohibited (though testing is not required).
This label indicates that the produce is tested to be 99% free of GMO residues. Non-GMO is not necessarily organic (though all organic is non-GMO). It also does not address pesticide or other chemical use.
Regenerative Organic Certified
Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC) is a revolutionary new certification for food, fiber, and personal care ingredients. ROC farms and products meet the highest standards for soil health, animal welfare, and farmworker fairness. ROC is overseen by the 501(c)3 nonprofit Regenerative Organic Alliance.
Demeter Certified Biodynamic
This biodynamic label is an environmental sustainability label that goes even beyond organic standards. It also has basic animal welfare standards.
Food Alliance Certified
Food Alliance is a nonprofit organization that certifies farms, ranches, and food processors and distributors for sustainable agricultural and facility management practices. Food Alliance Certification ensures safe and fair working conditions, humane treatment of animals, and careful stewardship of natural resources.
Certified Naturally Grown
This label was started by farmers to offer a more affordable and navigable alternative to the USDA organic certification process. It generally follows the USDA organic standards but the verification is done by CNG farmers instead of independent certifiers.
This label meets basic environmental sustainability and social welfare standards.
Salmon-Safe is an Oregon-based nonprofit that certifies urban and agricultural operations based on the protection of water quality and native biodiversity. Founded by a leading U.S. river and native fish conservation organization, Salmon-Safe has certified more than 400 West Coast farms, vineyards, dairies, corporate campuses, and other sites based on riparian habitat protection, elimination of chemical pesticides harmful to fish, restoration of wetlands, reducing runoff into streams, and other conservation practices.
Fair Trade Certified
When products are Fairtrade Certified it means that they were produced in accordance with Fairtrade International’s rigorous environmental, economic and social standards.
Fair For Life
This label means that social justice and environmental sustainability attributes were addressed.
Fair Food Program
This label stands for basic social welfare practices.
Food Justice Certified
This label is a comprehensive label for social justice in farming, especially in the US and requires farms to be Certified Organic as a prerequisite.
Responsibly Grown Farmworker Assured
This label stands for basic social welfare practices.
Sustainably Grown Certified
SCS’s Sustainably Grown Certified is a world-class sustainability standard, intended to foster top-tier agricultural practices that benefit farmworkers and farmers alike, build soil and protect sensitive ecosystems, reinforce farm communities, and meet the needs of food retailers and consumers. Sustainably Grown addresses a wide range of issues that matter to shoppers, such as responsible pest management, soil protection, water conservation, ecosystem protection, food safety, and non-GMO production.
SCS Pesticide Residue Free
This label means that products are tested for pesticide residues and sets limits of detection for each specific pesticide residues. However this label does not mean that there were no pesticides used.
American Grassfed Association
This certification is a third-party verified and guarantees that when consumers buy grassfed beef with the AGA logo, they are ensured it was born, raised, and processed in the USA, that the animals were treated humanely, and that they were grazed regeneratively. This confirms to shopkeepers and consumers that AGA certified producers are improving soils, water quality, biodiversity, and American farming communities.
This label can only be used on coffee that is also certified organic. It signifies that there is adequate biodiversity to protect and encourage song birds.
Whole Foods Responsibly Grown
Responsibly Grown expresses Whole Foods Market’s commitment to reduce pesticide use and its risks to consumers, farm workers, wildlife and the environment. It prohibits or restricts specific pesticides that have been identified by scientists as high risk but are commonly used in conventional agriculture today.
Stemilt Responsible Choice
This label stands for some some social justice attributes and basic environmental sustainability requirements. It is run by the Stemilt produce company.
This label meets basic environmental sustainability standards, meaning the fruit was grown with most eco-sensitive, minimally treated, natural methods possible.
Certified B Corporation
B Corps meet the highest standards of verified environmental and social performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. It’s the only certification that measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance.
1% For The Planet
1% For the Planet is an organization of members that contribute 1% of their annual gross sales to appropriate environmental non profits that align with their values. The idea is for companies that have profited from the resources on earth to protect those resources by funding for a positive change.
Glyphosate Residue Free
Glyphosate Residue Free verifies that products do not contain the world’s most used herbicide. A third day accredited laboratory is used to test the products to make sure they do not contain glyphosate residues down to the government-recognized limits of detection for food, commodity and supplement samples.
Oregon Tilth Certified (OTCO) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to support and promote sustainable agriculture through education, research, advocacy, and certification. OTCO provides certification services for agricultural producers, product manufacturers, and other handlers of organic products.