Friday, January 21, 2011

The USDA's Biobased Label: It's Not Organic!

As of today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is introducing its newest voluntary program, BioPreferred, that will allow qualifying manufacturers to label their products with a “biobased” certification. The program is designed to decrease the amount of petroleum in certain consumer products and increase the use of biological ingredients, such as soy and other plant or animal ingredients.

Now, typical consumer items such as trash bags, packaging, lips balms, inks and glues that have previously been manufactured primarily with petroleum, can be made with some natural content and be labeled "biobased." This means products from the produce aisle of the supermarket to the housecleaning aisle to the skin care aisle will have the opportunity to boast a new label certifying them petroleum-reduced or even petroleum-free.

This is a step in the right direction. But please be aware this label does not signify organic. In fact, the USDA's directive states that certain qualifying products are only required to have a minimum biobased content of 25 percent! This means that in certain products, such as animal feeds, up to 75% of the product can contain petroleum-derived or contaminated ingredients, and still boast the "biobased" label and certification. Now, even products that aren’t even close to meeting organic rules can be certified ‘biobased,’ which will likely be confusing.

I believe this USDA measure will be beneficial across a wide spectrum of industries in the effort to reduce dependence on petroleum and finite oil supplies. But, consumers looking for body care products with real quality should look to their community’s traditional herbalist first. Herbalists have always cared about the consumer, making products with top quality natural ingredients and concern for the environment. I’ve never used petroleum in my body care line, for example. I use beeswax in my salves, which is a traditional—and natural—method.

To view our full catalog, go here. And read those labels!


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