I can describe Organic Vanilla simply as a Vanilla containing product derived from organic sources. In the case of vanilla beans they should have been grown without GMO adulteration, and no synthetic chemical inputs like fertilizer, and pesticides.
The curing process for the Vanilla beans or the process of making the Vanilla Extract should also be organic; does not use antibiotics, synthetic food additives, or irradiation.
A vanilla product can be organic but without being Organic Certified.
Organic certification is a certification process for producers of organic food and other organic agricultural products. In general, any business directly involved in food production can be certified, including seed suppliers, farmers, food processors, retailers and restaurants.
Organic Certification requirements vary from country to country and generally involve a set of production standards for growing, storage, processing, packaging and shipping that include:
Avoidance of synthetic chemical inputs like 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);
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.
Third Party Organic Certification
In third party certification, the farm or the processing of the agriculture produce is certified in accordance with national or international organic standards by an accredited organic certification agency.
To certify a farm, the farmer is typically required to engage in a number of new activities, in addition to normal farming operations:
Study the organic standards, which cover in specific detail what is and is not allowed for every aspect of farming, including storage, transport and sale.
Compliance — farm facilities and production methods must comply with the standards, which may involve modifying facilities, sourcing and changing suppliers, etc.
Documentation — extensive paperwork is required, detailing farm history and current set-up, and usually including results of soil and water tests.
Planning — a written annual production plan must be submitted, detailing everything from seed to sale: seed sources, field and crop locations, fertilization and pest control activities, harvest methods, storage locations, etc.
Inspection — annual on-farm inspections are required, with a physical tour, examination of records, and an oral interview.
Fee — an annual inspection/certification fee (currently starting at $400–$2,000/year, in the US and Canada, depending on the agency and the size of the operation).
There are financial assistance programs for qualifying certified operations.
Record-keeping — written, day-to-day farming and marketing records, covering all activities, must be available for inspection at any time.
In addition, short-notice or surprise inspections can be made, and specific tests (e.g. soil, water, plant tissue) may be requested.
For first-time farm certification, the soil must meet basic requirements of being free from use of prohibited substances (synthetic chemicals, etc.) for a number of years.
A conventional farm must adhere to organic standards for this period, often two to three years. This is known as being in transition. Transitional crops are not considered fully organic.
Organic Certification of Non Farm Operations
Certification for operations other than farms follows a similar process. The focus is on the quality of ingredients and other inputs, and processing and handling conditions.
A transport company would be required to detail the use and maintenance of its vehicles, storage facilities, containers, and so forth. A restaurant would have its premises inspected and its suppliers verified as certified organic.