Organic fruit production is defined by the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP) as "A production system that is managed...to respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity." In general, organic fruit is grown without the use of chemical herbicides and pesticides and only using natural fertilizers.
Although simply planting a tree, waiting for a tree to produce, and picking the fruit, all without the addition of chemical growth enhancers and herbicides or pesticides is an organic growing process, it doesn't meet the USDA's NOP definition of organic. In order to qualify for the organic label in the grocery store, the fruit must be produced with good nutrient cycling management and an integrated, natural approach to pest control.
Anyone growing and selling fruit labeled organic must have their fruit production systems certified as organic by a third party certification system. Certification agencies vary greatly in their costs and reporting requirements. Some agencies only certify fruit as organic for the United States market. Other certification agencies certify fruit for export to international markets.
Record Keeping & Administration
Growing certified organic fruit is more than simply planting and growing fruit using organic methods. Most certification agencies require extensive documentation and record keeping. Keeping these records adds to the orchard owner's workload. Records can include production practices, receipts for all materials purchased, tracking of lot and serial numbers, and proving that suppliers are providing organic materials.
In most cases, certification agencies are paid as a percentage of crop sales. The more organic fruit an orchard produces, the higher the fees paid to the certification agencies. Certification is generally annual. In order to pay the fee, farmers are required to disclose proprietary data, such as sales figures, to the certification agency.
Benefits of Organic Fruit
According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, urine levels of pesticides dropped in children who were switched from conventionally produced fruits and vegetables to organically produced fruits and vegetables. Organically produced fruits place lower stresses on the environment through reduced fertilizer runoff and through reduced problems with unintended deaths of beneficial plants and organisms through broad spectrum insecticides and herbicides.