Certified Naturally Grown: An Alternative to Certified Organic

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Look for "Certified Naturally Grown," a label tailored specifically to direct-market farmers producing food for their communities.
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This label on fruits, vegetables and other products ensures the food was produced without synthetic pesticides and is free of GMOs.

Known as the grass-roots alternative to Certified Organic agriculture, Certified Naturally Grown is a national certification organization that assures that food labeled as such was produced without synthetic chemicals or genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

When the laws regulating the U.S. organic industry took full effect in 2002—12 years after the establishment of the National Organic Program (NOP) in 1990—some independent-minded organic farmers in New York’s Hudson Valley found themselves in a quandary. Because of the prohibitive costs and hefty paperwork requirements, they didn’t want to acquire Certified Organic status from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), but realized they then wouldn’t be able to call their products “organic.” By law, the NOP decrees that only farmers certified by its program may use the Certified Organic label to signify they’ve met the required standards. So, the New York farmers opted to create Certified Naturally Grown (CNG), an alternative label that would still convey the value of the practices applied on their farms to net them an important advantage in the marketplace.

“Certified Naturally Grown is like the USDA’s National Organic Program in that our certified producers must follow similar standards, farm without the use of synthetic chemical inputs or GMOs, and farm to support biological diversity and ecological balance,” says Alice Varon, CNG executive director. CNG certification, however, isn’t as expensive or time-consuming as securing certification from the USDA’s program. In some states, USDA organic certification can cost thousands of dollars. CNG charges $200 or less, and the paperwork load is much lighter, too. All certification and inspection documentation is available online for every participating farm.