Defining "organic" has proved difficult for federal authorities looking to create a uniform standard. “Various states have different requirements on issues such as soil that had been previously fertilized,” says TIME reporter Janice Horowitz. But the USDA’s proposals to allow irradiated, genetically altered and sewage-fertilized food to take the label on the grounds that no synthetic chemicals were used in their production sparked a nationwide campaign. Today’s decision is a victory for both consumers and producers who want to establish the credibility of their products, says Horowitz. It may have left the food-irradiation industry licking its wounds, but the folks down at the health store are breaking out the wheatgrass juice.
The word organic is like the word ironic -- widely used but not as widely understood. In fact the meaning of organic is fiercely contested, and today health-food activists forced the Department of Agriculture to back down on plans to allow irradiated, genetically altered and sewage-fertilized food to bear the coveted label.