Concentrations of organic contaminants in common productive soils based on the total soil mass give a misleading account of actual contamination effects. This is attributed to the fact that productive soils are essentially water-saturated, with the result that the soil uptake of organic compounds occurs principally by partition into the soil organic matter (SOM). This report illustrates that the soil contamination intensity of a compound is governed by the concentration in the SOM (Com) rather than by the concentration in whole soil (Cs). Supporting data consist of the measured levels and toxicities of many pesticides in soils of widely differing SOM contents and the related levels in in-situ crops that defy explanation by the Cs values. This SOM-based index is timely needed for evaluating the contamination effects of food crops grown in different soils and for establishing a dependable priority ranking for intended remediation of numerous contamination sites.