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Organic foods are produced according to certain production standards. For crops, it means they were grown without the use of conventional pesticides, artificial fertilizers, human waste, or sewage sludge, and that they were processed without ionizing radiation or food additives. For animals, it means they were reared without the routine use of antibiotics and without the use of growth hormones. In most countries, organic produce must not be genetically modified.
Increasingly, organic food production is legally regulated. Currently, the United States, the European Union, Japan and many other countries require producers to obtain organic certification in order to market food as organic.
Historically, organic farms have been relatively small family-run farms - which is why organic food was once only available in small stores or farmers' markets. Now, organic foods are becoming much more widely available - organic food sales within the United States have grown by 17 to 20 percent a year for the past few years while sales of conventional food have grown at only about 2 to 3 percent a year. This large growth is predicted to continue, and many companies are jumping into the market.
The National Organic Program (run by the USDA) is in charge of the legal definition of organic in the United States and does organic certification. It administers the Organic Seal to products and producers that meet strict requirements.