1. (specific to U.S. food/fiber) marketing label that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced and certified under the authority of the U. S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program (NOP) using approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Source: USDA. Also, the primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimize the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people.
2. (specific to finished textile products) Marketing label that denotes finished textile products that have earned certification under the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).
GOTS ensures the organic status of textiles, from harvesting of the raw materials, through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing up to labeling to provide credible assurance to the consumer. Source: GOTS.
It is important for marketers to use caution when approaching use of the term “organic.” Using an organic label on a product requires understanding of complex distinctions between certifying organizations to ensure that marketers do not contribute to consumer confusion around the term organic. For instance, the NOP allows marketers to identify specific organic fibers in textile products and use of statements identifying the percentage of organic fibers. However, most finished textile products (including mattresses) cannot use the USDA organic seal or imply that the finished product is certified by NOP. The NOP seal is reserved for use by those that farm or harvest the crop or livestock and that meet the NOP requirements for certification. For products that require additional manufacturing and processing of the organic fibers, a third-party organization has been recognized by NOP—GOTS—for certification of those finished products.
The NOP’s May 20, 2011 Policy Memo (PM) titled “Labeling of Textiles that Contain Organic Ingredients” (revised October 31, 2011), provides clarification on use of the term organic and states that, “Textile products that are produced in accordance with the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) may be sold as organic in the U.S. but may not refer to NOP certification or display the USDA organic seal.” Source: PM 11-14 Labeling of Textiles that Contain Organic Ingredients Rev02 10 31 11. Textile manufacturers and a limited number of mattress manufacturers have been successful in achieving GOTS certification and earning the opportunity to market their finished product as organic or certified organic through GOTS, which has its own nuances related to marketing and using the GOTS label and seal. Source: GOTS. Manufacturers of most finished products, including mattresses, that do not earn GOTS certification for the entire product may not refer to the entire product as an "organic" product, but may reference the type(s) of organic fiber, together with the percentages of the specific organic fiber(s) that are contained in the finished product. Source: PM 11-14 Labeling of Textiles that Contain Organic Ingredients Rev02 10 31 11.
While the FTC examined the term organic in its recent “Proposed Revisions to Green Guides,” they did not add instruction on labeling beyond referring readers back to the NOP. Therefore, ensuring proper substantiation of claims around use of the highly regulated term “organic,” requires careful consideration of the requirements of the previously mentioned certification and labeling organizations. One retailer that mistakenly advertised a mattress containing organic cotton fiber as a “USDA organic” mattress in its store catalog and its advertising was the subject of a complaint and NOP investigation. Source: Complaint Case NOPC-107-10, resolved 4-4-11, link not available. The investigation resulted in the store having to remove all such claims and provide substantiation that the crop components used in the mattress had indeed been certified as organic by NOP. The mattress store was warned that future violations of the NOP regulations could result in civil penalties of up to $11,000 per violation.
Since this complaint was resolved, NOP has recognized GOTS and provided clarifications on how to properly market textile products giving marketers better resources for ensuring that they will not be in violation of these strict marketing requirements. See also: in the “Organizations…” section of this document, National Organic Program and Global Organic Textile Standard.