The meaning of “organic”
Many factors are taken into consideration when coffee is considered for “organic” certification. For example, the coffee farm’s fertilizer must be 100% organic. Some organic fertilizer options include chicken manure, coffee pulp, bocachi and general compost. If inorganic fertilizers such as synthetic nitrogen, phosphate, and potash are used, then the crop grown cannot be certified organic.
In the US, organic coffee crops are overseen by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). USDA agents travel to coffee production sites to certify them as organic according to national standards. Although these standards discourage the use of chemicals on cropland within three years preceding the harvest in question, exemptions can be made. This means that not all USDA certified organic products are necessarily free of chemical residues.
Meanwhile, the Organic Food Production Act of 1990 (OFPA) focuses on the production of coffee after the harvest. OFPA regulates the use of chemicals on the product and how the coffee beans are handled throughout the production process. Regulations are not necessarily stringent; the former vice-chair of the U.S. National Organic Standards Board has stated that “Organic labels are not statements regarding the healthiness, nutritional value, or overall safety of consuming such products” (Liu 333).
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