The word organic has become a buzz word in many industries recently. But the issue is much deeper and more involved than simply looking for the little green and white label. New Mexico Tea Company offers many organic teas which you can explore more in this category. However if you're interested in knowing more about the topic you can expand the section.
What does it mean for a product to be certified organic?
Each country that offers a certification has different regulatory requirements. However, most certifications involve standards for storage, growing, processing, and packaging that include:
• Avoidance of synthetic chemicals, genetically modified organisms, irradiation, and the use of sewage sludge.
• The use of farmland that has been free from chemicals for a number of years.
• Keeping detailed written production and sales records.
• Maintaining strict physical separation of organic products from non-certified products.
• Periodic on-site inspections.
In some countries, certification is overseen by the government, and commercial use of the term organic is legally restricted. Certified organic producers are also subject to the same agricultural, food safety and other government regulations that apply to non-certified producers.
What is the certification process?
In order to certify a farm, the farmer is required to go through some extra steps in addition to normal farming operations:
• Study the organic standards, which cover in specific detail what is and is not allowed for every aspect of farming, including storage, transport and sale.
• Compliance - farm facilities and production methods must comply with the standards, which may involve modifying facilities, sourcing and changing suppliers, etc.
• Documentation - extensive paperwork is required, detailing farm history and current set-up, and usually including results of soil and water tests.
• Planning - a written annual production plan must be submitted, detailing everything from seed to sale: seed sources, field and crop locations, fertilization and pest control activities, harvest methods, storage locations, etc.
• Inspection - annual on-farm inspections are required, with a physical tour, examination of records, and an oral interview.
• Fee - an annual inspection/certification fee (currently starting at $400-$2,000/year, in the US and Canada, depending on the agency and the size of the operation).
• Record-keeping - written, day-to-day farming and marketing records, covering all activities, must be available for inspection at any time.
Why might Organic not be all its cracked up to be?
Originally, in the 1960s through the 1980s, the organic food industry comprised mainly small, independent farmers, selling locally. Organic "certification" was a matter of trust, based on a direct relationship between farmer and consumer. Critics view regulatory certification as a potential barrier to entry for small producers, by burdening them with increased costs, paperwork, and bureaucracy.
Critics of formal certification also fear an erosion of organic standards. Provided with a legal framework within which to operate, lobbyists can push for amendments and exceptions favorable to large-scale production, resulting in "legally organic" products produced in ways similar to current conventional food. Combined with the fact that organic products are now sold predominantly through high volume distribution channels such as supermarkets, the concern is that the market is evolving to favor the biggest producers, and this could result in the small organic farmer being squeezed out.
Manipulation of certification regulations as a way to mislead or outright dupe the public is a very real concern. Some examples are creating exceptions (allowing non-organic inputs to be used without loss of certification status) and creative interpretation of standards to meet the letter, but not the intention, of particular rules. As of June, 2007, the USDA was "considering a proposal to allow 38 nonorganic ingredients to be used in organic foods." According to the Los Angeles Times: "Because of the broad uses of these ingredients — as spices, colorings, and flavorings for example — almost any type of manufactured organic food could be affected, including organic milk, cereal, sausages, bread and beer." In 2007, the USDA certified Anheuser-Busch's Wild Hop Lager organic "even though [it] uses hops grown with chemical fertilizers and sprayed with pesticides."
Does China Produce Organic Tea?
China is the largest producer and consumer of tea in the world, producing more than 220 million pounds of tea during 2002. Organic farming is gaining ground in China, there is a need to focus on retaining and improving a competitive advantage with the onset of capitalism and competition. The demand for organic tea like other food items has also been growing rapidly since it was introduced to the world market in the late 1990s. Over the past decade, organic tea consumption has grown by about 10 percent globally.
Should I buy Organic Tea?
It is not unsafe to drink non-organic teas, at least in the short term. Billions of cups of tea are consumed each month, most of it is not certified organic, and we do not see wide spread sickness. However, one of the arguments for organic produce is that we still don't fully understand the long term effects of consuming small amounts of some pesticides. Many people would like to foster an atmosphere that encourages natural growing practices when possible, the purchase of organic products reinforces this trend.
If drinking organic tea leads to a stress free tea drinking experience for you, then by all means you should continue to buy organic. If there is a tea that you love, and it happens not to be organic then feel reassured that millions of other people are drinking it with no ill effects.