Organic has several meanings and may cause confusion as a result.

Organic Chemistry

Organic chemistry is a branch of chemistry dealing with carbon-based compounds. It includes the study of petrochemicals and fossil fuels, and the study of life-compounds such as proteins, fats and carbohydrates.

Organic chemistry is a vitally important branch of chemistry because of its life connections, which underlie petrochemicals and fossil fuels as well as biology. Carbon is a unique element, able to consistently bond at four atomic sites with covalent bonds, so that it forms long, complex, even highly-branched chains. Carbon-based chemistry results in compounds with unique properties, such as lubricants or fiber. A recent discovery is that of Fullerenes, a class of carbon compounds that may be spherical, termed "buckyballs", or tubular, offering the potential for ultra-strong cordage and conducting lines.

Organic Production

Organic is also a term often used for production of food and other animal and plant products without the use of synthetic chemicals. Many people regard organic food as highly superior to other commercial foods because they are more "pure" food -- that is, organic foods have fewer residual chemicals in them than do other commercial foods. On the average, studies have shown this to be true, although in very rare instances cases have arisen where products labeled organic have had high levels of agricultural chemicals in them due to unintentional contamination or fraud.

Organic food products are also produced with added artificial chemicals such as artificial food colorings.

A current market trend is the availability of organic fiber for clothing, such as cotton. Proponents of organic fiber point to exceptionally high levels of the use of pesticides and other chemicals in conventional fiber production, and claim environmental abuse through conventional agriculture.

Many states now offer organic certification for their farmers. To be certified organic, the land must have been used only for organic production for a certain period of years prior to certification, and only certain naturally-derived chemicals may be used on crops.

See also organic farming / organic gardening / organic food