Organic products can be defined, in the most general terms, as being the result of organic production (see also: Sustainable agriculture). The term “organic products” most often refers to organic food, but can also be applied to clothing or personal care products. Organic production is based on processes which, by definition, must not harm the environment, or human, plant or animal health and welfare. Production should respect the natural cycles of nature, preserve biodiversity and make responsible use of energy and natural resources (e.g. water, soil, air).
Plant products should be produced using only natural organic fertilisers derived from animal manure or plant materials (e.g. compost, straw, green manures). The use of mineral fertilisers, pesticides and other plant protection products and genetically modified organisms is excluded. Organic plant production is obtained only from organic seeds or rhizomes.
As regards animal products such as eggs, milk and meat, one of the conditions for organic production is raising animals in a free-range, open-air environment, providing them with sufficient light and access to bedding on natural materials. As a rule, the feed must not contain antibiotics, growth hormones or materials derived from genetically modified organisms. The use of antibiotics and hormones is only possible in individual cases for justified veterinary reasons. The ethical treatment of animals also applies to the conditions of transport and slaughter methods.
According to European Union regulations, foods may be labelled as 'organic' if at least 95% of their agricultural ingredients are organic. These foods are free from preservatives, artificial colours, stabilisers and heavy metals, which in the case of non-organic products are the residues of chemical plant protection products. Processed organic food may contain added water and cooking salt, as well as preparations of micro-organisms and enzymes, amino acids, mineral trace elements, additives, processing aids and flavourings, vitamins etc. (https://ec.europa.eu/info/food-farming-fisheries/farming/organic-farming/organic-production-and-products_en).
Organic clothing refers to products made from materials that have been produced using organic methods, i.e. without the use of chemicals. In this context, organic fibers are most often referred to, such as organic cotton or, less frequently, organic wool (see: https://iwto.org/sustainability/organic-wool/). It is estimated that currently only 0.7% of the world production of cotton is organic. Unlike conventional cotton, organic cotton is grown from non-GMO seeds and without the use of pesticide, insecticide or fertilizer, thus protecting water and soil. It also uses between 70 and 90% less water in its production, which is a major drawback of conventional cotton farming. Many commercial brands are trying to include clothes sewn from organic cotton in their range (see: Ethical fashion). A particular example is Patagonia, which has been using 100% organic cotton as part of its sustainable strategy since 1996. In 2017 the 2025 Sustainable Cotton Challenge (https://textileexchange.org/2025-sustainable-cotton-challenge/) started. Its aim is to encourage brands and retailers to commit to source 100 percent of their cotton from the most sustainable sources by the year 2025.