USDA Certified Organic CBD: What Does it Mean?
Sunmed CBD recently introduced two USDA-certified organic CBD oils, which we are very excited about. But what does USDA Organic mean, and what is the process for certification? In this article, we’re going to cover how a CBD product becomes certified organic by the USDA, and what it means for you as a consumer and the environment we live in.
USDA Hemp Regulations
You may remember the 2018 Farm Bill, which reclassified hemp as a legal crop in the United States. This landmark paved the way for the regulation of hemp crops to be tested for quality and THC content, as well as differentiate it from other cannabis plants marijuana, which produces psychoactive effects.
It also required that the regulatory framework be put in place for industrial hemp. One of those regulations requires that any plants that don’t meet quality standards, or that contain more than 0.3% THC will be destroyed. This puts hemp growers at a higher risk than traditional crop growers, who are covered by crop insurance. Only recently has crop insurance become available to hemp farmers, and only in individual counties in some states.
Each state must submit its regulatory guidelines to the Secretary of USDA to allow for the licensing and regulation of farmers to grow industrial hemp. Every farmer who wants to cultivate hemp must submit an application for a license to the state, and must comply with regulatory policies to keep growing. Any hemp farmer operating without a license, or without adhering to the regulations, could lose their license and be charged with a felony. And unlike conventional food crops like veggies, fruits, and herbs, people are not allowed to grow hemp at home unless their state legally allows it.
CBD remains a Schedule I substance under federal law, but the 2018 Farm Bill created an exception. Any cannabinoids extracted from hemp that is grown by licensed hemp farms will be treated as legal. That said, it is imperative to check with your state and local laws to ensure that you are allowed to use and have CBD.
What Does USDA Organic Mean?
You’re very likely familiar with the USDA Organic seal, which is displayed on foods and other products found in your grocery store. Consumers seek out organic products for many reasons—perhaps to avoid chemicals like pesticides, or because of the environmental impact, or even because of GMOs.
To gain the USDA Organic seal, producers are subject to numerous processes, strict guidelines, and testing. For the purpose of this article, we’ll explain the guidelines as they apply to cannabinoid products.
USDA Organic Regulations
For a farmer to gain the USDA Organic seal, there are numerous regulations to follow, as well as licensing and yearly inspections.
- Organic hemp crops must be harvested on soil that hasn’t used synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides in the past three years.
- No synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides can be used on the crops during the growing or harvesting process.
- Farmers must use tillage and cultivation methods that guard the soil quality, and that minimize soil erosion.
- Hemp seeds must be certified as non-genetically modified (non-GMO).
- Growers must submit records of all sales, as well as the companies they supplied to. They are also subject to criminal background checks.
- CBD producers must use USDA-approved extraction processes, including CO2, sugar cane alcohol solvent, or lipid infusion. Even the carrier oils and essential oils that cannabinoids are suspended in are subject to these standards.
- The end product must be certified and labeled as either Organic or 100% Organic. The distinctions are explained below.
- An approved third-party auditor certified by the USDA must test all ingredients, as well as the final product, to ensure adherence to the USDA guidelines. This audit goes all the way down the supply chain for each product, certifying a thorough examination of each ingredient used in the process.
- Every year, a third-party audit must be done to maintain certification.
The processes for producing organic cannabinoid products are quite rigorous, ensuring quality from before the crops are even planted, and until the final product is packaged for sale. Meticulous records must be maintained, and many farms and CBD producers report having to hire full-time staff just to keep these certifications.
The Difference Between All-Natural and Organic
Many consumers actively seek out organic and all-natural products, but likely don’t know the distinctions. While these distinctions share some of the same qualities, there are differences that buyers should be aware of before making a purchase.
100% organic products are precisely what they say they are. Every one of the ingredients used in the end product is certified organic.
All certified organic products will be labeled as such. Still, CBD companies cannot claim that their end product is 100% organic, and all agricultural ingredients in the product must be certified organic. The certified organic ingredients are marked with an asterisk in the ingredients list on the product label.
“Made With” Organic
“Made With” Organic is not a USDA certified product, but 70% of the ingredients are certified organic, and the remaining 30% are subject to strict guidelines. This type of product may state that it is made with organic ingredients on the label, and those ingredients are marked with an asterisk.
Specific Organic Ingredients
The product may state that it contains specific organic ingredients (less than 70% certified organic). This type of product cannot bear the USDA seal, and it may not list the product as being “organic.” However, it can contain ingredients that are certified organic in the ingredients list. The non-organic ingredients are not required to be tested or certified in the same way that “Made With” Organic products are.
Products that are labeled as “natural” and “all-natural” are not subject to the same certifications and scrutiny as organic products are, and are not regulated. These products usually don’t contain synthetic ingredients or high levels of processing to earn the all-natural distinction. Nevertheless, the agricultural ingredients may have been treated with synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, or antibiotics.
Why Third-Party Testing and Verification is so Important
Third-party verification is critical in CBD products. Consumers may not have the resources to determine on their own where or how a CBD tincture was, or what processes were used. The USDA Organic label provides a guarantee that a product is organic, but if a product isn’t certified, how can you determine the safety and quality? One answer lies in third-party testing.
Take a look at the lab report, which should include information about any heavy metals, pesticides, fertilizers, microbes, and chemical residue. Additionally, information about the specific cannabinoids and amounts found in the product should be listed, as well as any terpenes and solvents found. Moreover, these reports sort out any synthetic cannabinoids that may have been added to a product. Synthetic cannabinoids can damage the body’s endocannabinoid system, as well as the brain.
The cannabis plant is well-known for its ability to soak up toxins from the soil it grows in, which is fantastic for cleaning the soil, but not exactly ideal for the consumption of the plant. This is why the third-party reports are crucial in ensuring the quality of non-certified products, but also why USDA Organic certification introduces a higher level of quality overall.
Farming & Sustainability
Let’s look beyond the end product and how it affects the consumer and to the farming practices and benefits of growing certified organic ingredients.
Farmers who previously grew corn, soybeans, and other crops run the risk of having a “bumper crop” that produces no profit at the end of the harvest season. By legalizing industrial hemp, these farmers can contribute to a booming industry that can yield more profit per acre than some traditional crops.
Because of the 2018 Farm Bill, there are no restrictions placed on growers who export and import hemp seeds internationally. They are also able to engage in interstate trade of the crop without limitations. The Farm Bill laid the groundwork for eventually making hemp crops a globally traded commodity on the world market, so long as it adheres to the 0.3% standard.
Growing organic crops also helps to increase environmental sustainability. When organic-approved pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers are used, they pose far less risk to the water in our lakes, rivers, and oceans, which are delicate ecosystems that are harmed by synthetic chemicals. Organic farms have been shown to produce less runoff and erosion than non-organic farms, also reducing the risk of floods. Hemp plants absorb more CO2 from the air than forests, and other crops do and could contribute to reducing greenhouse emissions.
By using USDA Certified Organic CBD products, you’re reducing your body’s exposure to synthetic chemicals, as well as promoting more sustainable farming practices for the world around you. While organic farming has been around for several years now, this is a relatively new practice in the world of CBD production, and we’re excited to be one of the pioneering organic CBD companies. When nothing but the highest quality ingredients is essential to you, shop Ripon Naturals today!