“Organic Essential Oils,” USDA Organic Certification and Seal
THE MEANING OF “ORGANIC”
The term “organic,” often used interchangeably with the term “natural,” is in fact quite distinct from this comparative word by virtue of the government guidelines and the national standards that allow organic products to qualify as such. “Organic” refers to farming ethics and processes, specifically to the way crops are cultivated, processed, and produced in a way protects the supply chain and the environment from becoming harmed at any point.
In order for companies to have the full permission required to proceed with characterizing and selling their products as organic, products with the “organic” label must undergo thorough investigation and supervision by the auditor and earn certification before the label can be placed on products. On the contrary, companies are permitted to market any of their products as “natural” based on their own understanding and interpretation of the term.
An organic certification implies that the product is a result of organic farming, which seeks to encourage environmental equilibrium and to protect as well as sustain biodiversity by incorporating environmentally- and animal-friendly methods that support the salvaging and reprocessing of resources. These eco-friendly methods involve:
- Rotating crops, which helps balance the soil’s nutrients and wards off pests
- Composting and using “green” manures to introduce essential organic matter to the soil
- Encouraging wildlife diversity
- Refining soil health and quality by protecting against soil erosion, and by helping soil maintain its crucial microbiology
- Helping protect water from becoming contaminated and preventing drought
- Using farming methods that require significantly lower amounts of energy than conventional practices
- Avoiding monocropping, which causes the soil to lose nutrients and ultimately leads to decreased crop yields
- Keeping detailed documentation that allows for comprehensive traceability of processes from the field to the final product
- Conserving the environment
There are several types of organic seals – Organic Ingredients, Made with Organic, 100% Organic, Certified Organic/USDA Organic – and each represents a varying degree of “purity.”
UNDER THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE (USDA) NATIONAL ORGANIC PROGRAM (NOP) STANDARD:
USDA ORGANIC/CERTIFIED ORGANIC means:
- These products must show a list of ingredients
- These products must contain ingredients that are at least 95% organically-produced
- These products must not be produced using synthetic preservatives, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, petrochemicals, dyes, genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, or any other excluded methods
- These products are usually free of GMOs
- The USDA seal may appear on the package
100% ORGANIC means:
- These products must contain 100% organically-produced ingredients (not including water and salt)
- This is the only certification label that guarantees that a product is entirely organic and free of GMO ingredients
- The USDA seal may appear on the package
MADE WITH ORGANIC means:
- These products must contain at least 70% organic ingredients
- The remaining 30% of the ingredients (non-organic) in these products must not be foods
- Non-organic ingredients must not be found on an exclusion list or be processed with prohibited practices
- These products must not bear the USDA seal anywhere on the package
Canadian Organic standards, which apply to products that are both domestic and imported, strictly prohibit the use of the following:
- Synthetic fertilizers or chemicals
- Synthetic or toxic pesticides and herbicides
- Genetic engineering/Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) or nanotechnology
- Biosolids also called Sewage Sludge
|WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THESE PRODUCTS||CONTAINS ORGANIC INGREDIENTS||MADE WITH ORGANIC||USDA ORGANIC /CERTIFIED ORGANIC||100% ORGANIC|
|Organic seal allowed?||No; a product is prohibited from being marketed as “organic”||No; the product must clearly state the organic ingredients||Yes||Yes|
|% of Certified Organic Ingredients Required||Not specified||Min. 70%||95%||100%|
|Required to comply with National List of Allowed/Prohibited Substances?||No||Non-organic ingredients must comply||Non-organic ingredients must comply||Yes|
THE HISTORY OF ORGANIC PRODUCTS
The quality of an essential oil is determined not only by the way in which it is distilled but also largely by the source botanical’s seeds as well as the way it is cut, grown, and harvested. This is where organic farming practices come into play. When the use of pesticides and harmful chemicals became popular practices in farming, innovators in the field realized it was important to take a different route to address issues of soil depletion and the poor quality of food as well as livestock feed – problems that eventually led to soil erosion, reduced crop varieties, and rural poverty, among other problems. The alternate approach to resolving these problems lay in working to enhance the health of the soil.
Though traditional farming has always made use of organic practices, deliberately-organic farming is said to have been prompted by Sir Albert Howard, a British botanist who earned the nickname The Father of Modern Organic Agriculture for his study, recognition, documentation, and implementation of modern agricultural science as well as the traditional farming practices of India, which he viewed as more advanced than the usual agricultural techniques. He promoted farming systems that would return agricultural and biodegradable waste, green manure, as well as crop residues to the soil. He also endorsed the idea of supporting nature through the use of crops with deep roots that could help attract nutrients from the soil.
What is believed to be the first complete, “biodynamic” organic farming system, however, was developed by Rudolf Steiner, who underscored the ecological interconnectedness of soil quality and fertility, plant health, and animal health. This therapeutic philosophy also highlighted the importance of the farmer ensuring that all these factors remain healthy, as nature was considered to have the ability to enhance physical and mental well-being. Just as in other organic systems, biodynamic agriculture avoids the use of synthetic chemicals on soil and plants. This holistic view of balanced farming was also shared by Lord Northbourne, who was the first to coin the term “organic farming.”
In the 1940s, a modern organic “movement” (organic farming was originally started in 1840 with the theory of mineral plant nutrition) was initiated in response to the apparently increased dependence on inorganic, manmade, chemical fertilizers and pesticides in farming. These synthetics were usually comprised of by-products from the petroleum industry and they often had detrimental effects on the earth, eliminating many valuable living microorganisms from the soil.
Starting in the 1970s, organic farming has seen an upsurge in popularity, due to consumers’ growing consciousness of the importance of protecting and sustaining the environment and the resultant demand for organic farming and organic products; however, organic farming as an agricultural practice is distinct from organic certification.
The organic certification system was initiated in the 1970s when buyers expressed their apprehensions about believing the credibility of the “organic” claims and the purity of the products they were purchasing. Consumers’ doubts arose in part due to a lack of the previous closeness that existed between consumers and farmers, hence it became difficult to place confidence in the farmers’ word. Accordingly, organic certification became and remains a method for authenticating the claim that crops were cultivated, harvested, and produced in accordance with universally-validated etiquette, guidelines, and procedures that were stringently followed.
|ORGANIC FARMING GUIDELINES|
|Soil PreparationAn analysis of the soil allows the producer to improve the soil’s nutritional and mineral status as well as its pH level, in order to achieve the levels required to supply crops with an optimal growth environment||
|FertilizationThe levels of soil fertility must be within an adequate range before a soil-building strategy can commence||
COMMON MYTHS ABOUT ORGANIC PRODUCTS
Farmers/Producers: It’s too expensive to get certified.
While there is a fee to be part of the certification program, the cost varies depending on several factors. It is possible to receive funding to cover some of the cost, and a substantial percentage of the certification fee can also be refunded through a federal program.
Farmers/Producers: The paperwork is too burdensome and overwhelming to make time for it.
The required paperwork is not time-consuming or labor-intensive, as it simply involves what is already required of farmers who run good farms. Furthermore, it offers the opportunity to improve business practices by encouraging farmers and producers to keep track of their productivity through a comprehensive and organized system, an exercise that is already a pillar of the business.
Certification requires that farmers and producers keep detailed records, and developing this habit of regularly and proficiently taking notes helps to hone and facilitate executive decisions. Furthermore, it helps improve administrative function, monitor cost-effectiveness by crop, and contribute to product safety.
The process of maintaining the certification does not require much time dedication each year either.
Consumers: Organic essential oils are superior to conventional, non-organic essential oils because the extraction methods for the two types are different.
Extraction methods vary depending only on the type of botanical, the plant part, and the intended resultant product. For example, if extracting oil from a plant’s seed, cold pressing would be the ideal method, as this process would yield more oil than distillation would. Accordingly, organic essential oils do not undergo specialized or dedicated methods when they are being handled or obtained.
Consumers: Organic essential oils never spoil.
While products made through organic processes may last a relatively long time, they will eventually begin to disintegrate due to the natural and inevitable process of oxidation. This causes products, such as essential oils, to lose their freshness, purity, scent, nourishing properties, and ultimately their quality and effectiveness.
Consumers: Absolutely no chemical pesticide residues remain at all in organic products.
The organic label on a product does not guarantee that the product has been grown in a pesticide-free zone, but rather that the use of pesticides was controlled and limited by a list of allowed substances.
When organic products are tested for residues of chemical pesticides, most of them are found to be free of them; however, even organic products can potentially retain the chemical residues that already pollute considerable expanses of air, soil, and water that may come in contact with organic products during cultivation or processing. Because of this unavoidable exposure to residues, traces may end up in organic products. Still, the best way to reduce the chances of exposure to these residues in natural products is to opt for organic products.
BENEFITS OF ORGANIC FARMING AND USING ORGANIC PRODUCTS
The benefits of organic farming practices include conserved energy, improved health, and quality of soil and water, and heightened biodiversity. Organic products are believed to have higher numbers of therapeutic properties and to thus exhibit a greater number of beneficial effects, making them ideal for aromatherapy applications. They are also believed to be safer for application, due to the absence of synthetic and chemical substances.
One of the main benefits of using organic products is that their growth and production assures environmental sustainability through eco-friendly practices. These practices include growing crops without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides, growing crops by salvaging and reusing natural resources, and generally leaving less of an environmental impact than conventional farms.
The product seal that displays proof of organic certification is a message to consumers that a third party has verified that the product does not contain any GMOs or any contaminants. The organic seal is evidence that a producer has satisfied and acted in accordance with regulations, compliance inspections, and approved materials and that the producer has contributed to the safeguarding of the earth and water. It provides consumers with the guarantee that producers are accountable and that their processes are trackable.
Each time buyers choose to purchase certified organic products, they support and help advance the growing movement that seeks to rectify the state of the environment through the promotion of wholesome and holistic practices with regard to managing soil, crops, and stock. This, in turn, encourages the farming processes that respond to the problems of pollution and diminished soil health as well as soil erosion. Carrying out organic agricultural practices have been known to enhance the land’s fertility, efficiency, yield, and biodiversity over time, bestowing these benefits upon future generations.
THE PROCESS OF CERTIFYING ORGANIC PRODUCTS
In order for goods to be labeled and marketed as organic, a company must first earn an organic certification, which confirms that the products have been handled and produced according to the regulations and precise standards of the certifying body. Only after these requirements have been met can a company place the organic seal on its products.
The USDA accredits certifying agents, who become responsible for ensuring that USDA Organic products meet all standards required for organic certification. Each year, companies have their organic certification authorized on-site by an autonomous third-party Quality Assurance system. This independent group reviews the company’s thorough documentation that accounts for all those who could have potentially come in contact with the organic product at any phase of production, namely farmers, transporters, processors, and wholesalers. The company’s own systems and processes are also audited and validated to certify that it observes the government-enforced organic regulations.
THE IMPORTANCE OF ACCREDITATION AND CERTIFICATION FOR ORGANIC PRODUCTS
Many big companies claim that their products are certified organic but refuse to divulge their proper certification to prove it. NDA does not agree with this practice. We believe that we owe it to our customers to offer proof of our certification. Earning organic certification is a company’s best approach to authenticate a product’s purity and quality as well as to establish proof that a third party has confirmed they are vigilant about the ecological conservancy involved in their products. A seal of certification also gives conscientious consumers the peace of mind that the organic methods that went into manufacturing the organic product they are purchasing have in some way benefited not only individual farms but also entire communities, the land, and the environment at large.
For some companies, printing the “organic” claim on their products is more about inspiring excitement and promoting publicity for their brand than it is about delivering genuinely organic products comprised of mostly or entirely natural ingredients. Seeking to benefit from the value that the organic label gives their products, these companies end up deceiving customers, hiding the fact that many of these products continue to be processed inadequately or in environments that expose them to chemicals and other synthetics. This is what makes the certification stamp so important; the product should have “certified organic by…” followed by the name of the certifying body. If a company claims that their products are organic but lacks the official certification to prove it, or if it infringes the USDA organic regulations, it risks facing a large pecuniary penalty or having their certificate either revoked or suspended.