Requirements vary from country to country (List of countries with organic agriculture regulation), and generally involve a set of production standards for growing, storage, processing, packaging and shipping that include:
avoidance of synthetic chemical inputs (e.g. fertilizer, pesticides, antibiotics, food additives), irradiation, and the use of sewage sludge; avoidance of genetically modified seed;
use of farmland that has been free from prohibited chemical inputs for a number of years (often, three or more);
for livestock, adhering to specific requirements for feed, housing, and breeding;
keeping detailed written production and sales records (audit trail);
maintaining strict physical separation of organic products from non-certified products; undergoing periodic on-site inspections.
In some countries, certification is overseen by the government, and commercial use of the term organic is legally restricted. Certified organic producers are also subject to the same agricultural, food safety and other government regulations that apply to non-certified producers.
Certified organic foods are not necessarily pesticide-free, as certain pesticides are allowed.