Besides organic, the terms "ecological", "biological", "alternative", or "natural" are sometimes used as synonymous to organic.

"Organic" is generally used in the English-speaking world. "Biological" is used where Latin languages are spoken. "Ecological" is commonly used in Northern Europe. Other terms such as "green", "alternative" or nature-friendly" are used by parties outside of the organic sector.

The different terms reflect the diversity of philosophies, science and methods used in organic agriculture, which has long list of pioneers and encompass different schools of thought. First, use of the term 'organic farming' is credited by some to Lord Northbourne. In his book, Look to the Land (1940), he described it as a holistic, ecological balanced approach to farming.

In 2008, IFOAM adopted the following definition for organic agriculture. "Organic agriculture is a production system that sustain the health of soil, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with the adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationaships and a good quality of life for all involved."