The Spirit of Organic

Organic. What does it mean?  With my background in the natural/organic food industry, I always thought I had a strong understanding of the USDA’s meaning of the term “organic” and the issues surrounding it: from dirt firsters (folks who believe that plants should only be grown in dirt and that other methods of growing cannot be considered organic), to hydroponic farmers growing with no soil, from using insects to using pesticides. There is also the whole movement behind organic food: farm to table, eat local, SLOW food, Good Food, etc. The USDA’s website is a helpful tool. Coming into the cannabis space, I learned that my understanding left out many important things in a non-regulated industry: wordplay, stock photos, and the power of suggestion.

I got a call awhile back asking if we had “organic” terpenes. According to the meaning that the USDA, SKAL (Skal Biocontrole is the designated control authority for organics in the European Union) or EccoCert (Global) gives an organic certification, we only have one item, D-limonene. The person calling mentioned that they had seen other companies marketing and selling “organic” terpenes. That statement began my education.

I found that there are a lot of terpene companies in the cannabis space that are using the word “organic”. Their websites will have an “organic” logo that appear to show some form of certification, when in reality, the logos they use don’t mean anything at all. They are just stock photos. In a non-regulated space, it is easy to do this without any repercussion. This is when I had to step back and remind myself of the original meaning of the word “organic”: relating to or derived from living matter. So, my hair is “organic”. So are my fingernails. So is everything that comes from a plant or animal. It appears as though folks have a loose definition of the word “organic”. This is wordplay and manipulation at its best.

Something else I found out about was FDA rule 7 CFR 205.605.  Some companies are using this to deem their product “organic”. That is not what the rule states. FDA rule 7 CFR 205.605 lists Nonagricultural (nonorganic) substances allowed as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as “organic” or “made with organic (specified ingredients or food group(s)).” Under flavors it states that flavors can be used in “organic” or “made with organic” products, if the flavors are produced using “non-synthetic sources only and must not be produced using synthetic solvents and carrier systems or any artificial preservative”. That does not say that flavors are organic, just that they can be used in organic products.

With all that being revealed to me, it seems as though the spirit of “organic”, the “organic” movement, and “organic” farming are being misrepresented in the name of marketing and sales. I came to a simple conclusion: if you really care about true “organic” products, ask your supplier to provide proper certification. If the terpene supplier does not have certification from the NOP (National Organic Program) of the USDA, or from SKAL or EccoCert, or any of the smaller certification organizations, then it is not certified organic. If the product does not have those certifications, it has not gone through the rigorous standards required of certification. Ask questions. Was the soil that the plants were grown in certified organic? Were the farm’s anti-insect, disease and anti-fungal methods certified organic? Were products used in extraction all certified organic? There are many layers to true organic. Don’t be fooled by wordplay.

Here are some of the logos that people are using on their website that one can get from Google. Our research indicates that these are self-designated labels which only imply certification. Therefore, we can only assume they really don’t mean anything with regard to true USDA defined and certified Organic ingredients.

About the author

John Roelke, Extract Consultants

1 Comment

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