The Arbiter of Organic

Look for the "OMRI Listed" seal as an assurance of organic compliance.

By Peggy Miars

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The OMRI listed logo designates brand-name products and generic materials that are approved for use in organic farming and gardening.

Foods that bear the "USDA Organic" label have rightfully earned a reputation for being carefully monitored and reliable. Organic certifiers annually inspect each producer, auditing operating procedures and record keeping and ensuring that all standards set by the USDA's National Organic Program have been met. Producers of organic foods must retain detailed records showing that only approved fertilizers, soil amendments, and other inputs have been used on the land. But how does a farmer or certifier know which fertilizers and pesticides meet National Organic Program specifications? The answer is OMRI, the Organic Materials Review Institute.

OMRI existed before there was a federal government body to oversee organics, yet many consumers are unaware of this critical nonprofit organization. Unlike certifiers, OMRI focuses solely on agricultural inputs, which include such necessities as nonsynthetic fertilizers, soil amendments, and naturally derived pest-control products. Farmers, food processors, and certifiers rely on the OMRI Products List and OMRI Generic Materials List, databases of products and substances that are approved for use on certified-organic land. Savvy consumers are catching on, looking for the OMRI seal on the input products they use at home to keep their gardens truly organic.

OMRI began in 1997 as a partnership of certifiers who realized that one centralized list was the best way to keep track of products for organic use. As a first step, OMRI created a list of allowed and prohibited generic materials—potential ingredients in farming and livestock production, such as sphagnum peat moss and Epsom salts. The OMRI Generic Materials List enjoys worldwide circulation and use as a trusted index of materials for organics. OMRI then extended its reviews to brand-name products, resulting in the OMRI Products List. The two lists, available online and in print, are continually updated.

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