As the buzz around CBD gains momentum, more people than ever are looking to capitalize on the emerging market.
The competition between CBD retailers is very serious, and so are some of the claims manufacturers use to market their products and reach larger customer bases.
However, many of these claims are misleading.
Have you ever heard of certified organic CBD oil?
That’s a claim many companies use to lure new customers into their sales funnel.
Chances are this claim is far-fetched for the majority of brands — while it’s now possible to obtain organic certification for hemp products, including CBD oil, the process in itself is very time-consuming and cost-prohibitive.
Only a few companies have organic CBD oil in their assortment as of now.
Let’s get into the details of how this works.
A Few Words on the USDA Organic Certification
Any crop or product needs to be given official certification if the company wants to sell it as organic.
The certification process itself is supervised by third-party agents according to the standards set by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
As with any certification program, organic crops must adhere to several strict requirements, from soil conditions to plant processing. Growers are subject to rigorous quality control procedures that check for the types of substances allowed for use while cultivating organic crops.
The USDA has the right to allow or ban certain substances for use in organic agriculture.
The decision about whether a product is organic or not depends on the following:
- The effect of the crop on the ecosystem
- The risk of contamination during manufacturing, use, or disposal
- Compatibility with sustainable farming practices
- The importance of the crop as a source of food or medicine
Many people are not aware that there’s more to this classification than “organic vs non-organic.” In fact, there are three types of organic certification:
- 100% organic — all ingredients and practices are certified organic
- Organic — contains 95% organic ingredients with some approved chemical additives
- Made with organic ingredients — this certification means that some of the ingredients are organic.
Now, let’s talk about the requirements hemp plants need to meet in order to be certified as organic.
What Makes Hemp Plants Organic
In order to grow organic hemp, farmers must make sure their crops meet the following standards:
1. Untreated Hemp Seeds
The plant seeds must be pure and untreated. There should be no chemical hitches with them. In short, a hemp seed must be in its complete organic form by all means.
No feminized or otherwise genetically modified seeds are allowed to be used for an organic crop.
2. Soil Quality
The next condition that must be met by hemp plants if they are to be certified as organic is the soil conditions — they need to be 100% naturally fertilized.
This means little to no chemical fertilizer can be used to grow organic plants.
In addition, the soil must be maintained in that state from the moment the farmer plants the seed to the harvest time.
There should also be enough space for the plants because hemp tends to grow to large sizes. Ensuring enough space for the plants to thrive helps both the growth and the harvest.
Hemp farmers must have their eyes in the back of their head because if they fail to take care of the above conditions it will cause the plant and soil to suffer — not to mention that such crops can no longer be certified as organic.
3. No Growth Hormones
Growth enhancers, stimulators, and hormones are common among hemp farmers. These are all tools farmers use to enhance their crop to get the best yields possible — which of course means more profit for the farmer. This stays in stark contrast with the basic requirements for growing certified organic hemp plants — which often have lower yields.
Hemp can’t be stimulated by any growth hormones or steroids if the goal is to achieve organic status.
These kinds of enhancers can interrupt the natural secretion of the plant’s hormones and alter the phytochemistry of the plant.
Consequently, taking products that contain hormone-treated hemp may also disrupt human hormone systems in ways we have yet to fully understand.
4. No Radiation
Radiation comes from radioactive elements found in the soil or water supplies. They’re a direct result of humans — the run-off from various industries using radioactive isomers in their manufacturing facilities can contaminate local soil and water supplies with radioactive byproducts.
There are several different types of radiation, but the most important in the context of organic crop production is beta radiation.
These forms of radiation can be absorbed into the plants and enter the body once consumed — wreaking havoc on the body, especially over long periods of time.
No amount of radiation is allowed in plants that are to be certified organic.
5. Overall Health of Hemp Plants
Hemp plants may be exposed to different bacterial, fungal, or parasitic nematode infections during the course of its life.
The farmer needs to use protective solutions like sprays and soil treatments to prevent or cure the disease or else the entire hemp crop could be decimated.
Organic certification requires minimal use of these biocontrol agents. Depending on the crop the level of control may vary a lot. With apples, for example, some spraying is allowed even up until the day before harvest with organic crops. This is because this crop is especially prone to infection and without the use of sprays we would likely no longer have enough apples to go around.
The folks at the USDA office are still working out the details of how much, and what types of chemical pesticides are allowed with certified organic crops.
Why Isn’t Organic Hemp Common?
There are two major reasons why organic hemp is so hard to come by.
First, it’s the fact that hemp is a bioaccumulator — meaning it absorbs and accumulates many of the compounds present in its growing environment — including the bad stuff like heavy metals and radioactive beta particles.
This adds a layer of difficulty to farmers seeking to grow organic hemp plants — but it’s not impossible.
The second reason is that hemp has only recently been accepted as a candidate for organic status by the USDA.
In September of 2018, the USDA released a statement outlining their plans for the organic classification of hemp in the United States.
The application and approval process is incredibly slow and expensive. So much so, only a handful of farmers have gotten on board so far.
We expect to see a lot more hemp farms achieving the organic status in the near future — but at the current moment, these are very few and far between.
OneCert: The Rising Hope for Organic Certification
According to the 2018 Farm Bill, hemp is no longer a controlled substance and is now a regular agricultural crop in the USA. That being said, the 2014 requirement from the old Farm Bill, which certified hemp and hemp-derived products only if they adhered to states’ pilot research program, is no longer valid.
The new regulations create certain loopholes for companies who want to sell organic CBD oil.
The USDA organic regulations don’t specify what types of products can be made from organic hemp. This also applies to CBD oil. The definition of hemp in the 2018 Farm Bill lists every part of the hemp plant and all types of products made from hemp, so CBD oil can be now certified as organic.
This spurred something that was, in fact, inevitable. Hemp farmers and manufacturers have started looking for USDA-accredited third-party agencies specializing in applications for organic hemp crops and products. OneCert is one of such companies.
OneCert has already helped with organic certifications for a large share of domestic US companies. The core of their activity is to reduce the amount of bureaucracy and the time it takes to receive the USDA organic seal.
To join their acceleration program, you need to send a request for a certification packet and adhere with current National Organic Program (NOP) instructions.
OneCert also urges growers to submit a copy of their state license or registration along with an Industrial Hemp Affirmation form. If a company complies with the above criteria, it’s very likely that they will receive the organic badge.
“As long as they comply, we will certify. And you know what, I might even one day certify marijuana,” says Sam Welsch, President of OneCert.
These words fill us with the hope that organic certification for hemp and its products (including CBD oil) will soon become accessible for more and more domestic farmers.
How to Apply For the USDA Organic Certificate
The only entities allowed to grant organic certificates are third-party agencies that have been accredited by the USDA itself.
Here’s how to become a USDA-accredited certifying agent.
These certifiers must make sure that USDA organic products meet all standards set by the organization.
A company applying for the USDA organic seal has to go through a five-step process:
- The farmer (or manufacturer) employs organic practices, chooses a USDA-accredited certifying agent, and submits an application along with fees to the certifying agent.
- The certifying agents verify if the practices adopted by the company adhere to USDA organic regulations.
- The applicant undergoes an on-site inspection.
- The certifying agent analyzes the application and the inspector’s report to confirm that the applicant meets the USDA organic standards.
- The certifying agent sends the organic certificate.
Farmers and manufacturers who want to maintain organic certification will be subject to annual reviews and inspections.
This website will give you an in-depth look into the USDA organic regulations.
Is the USDA Organic Seal Worth All that Hassle?
As of right this moment, applying for organic certification is cost-prohibitive, both emotionally and financially.
In theory, the 2018 Farm Bill has changed the way hemp products are regulated throughout the US, but in practice, the very procedure of obtaining the USDA organic badge is extremely slow and expensive.
It’s like trying to eat a donut through the window — you know it’s there, but you can’t even lick it.
Tantalizing at its best.
There are plenty of farms in the USA that are growing their crops organically — but they can’t technically claim this without going through all that certification ordeal and paying thousands of dollars first.
The majority of people use cold calculation when it comes to manufacturing hemp — growing these plants is expensive in itself — and they think this is a huge waste of time and effort. They will probably never certify their hemp even if they use 100% organic practices.
Final Thoughts on Organic CBD Oil
We hope this article has helped you understand why CBD oil cannot be certified as an organic product in the current market.
Changing the tides in favor of hemp growers and companies aspiring for the certification would call for a major shift in the FDA’s policy in regards to cannabidiol.
This doesn’t mean that CBD growers don’t use organic practices for growing their hemp — most of them just fail to meet certain conditions to receive that label.