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Organic and Natural: Caveat Emptor
By: David C. Steinberg, Steinberg & Associates
Posted: April 1, 2009, from the April 2009 issue of Cosmetics & Toiletries.
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While these materials are found in nature, Canada took it a step further to describe acceptable substances as being synthetic duplicates of those materials listed above. Synthetic duplicates are substances that share identical chemical structures and pharmacological properties with their natural counterparts; an example of such is vitamin E and dl alpha-tocopherol.
A semi-synthetic substance may also be acceptable as an NHP, provided that it shares identical chemical structures and pharmacological properties with its natural counterpart. Semi-synthetic substances are produced by processes that chemically change a related starting material that has been extracted or isolated from a plant or a plant material, an alga, a fungus or a non-human animal material. An example of such is ginsenosides, which are produced from the starting compound betulafolienetriol.
In the end, whatever marketing deems natural is natural; the critical inference is that consumers believe products marketed as natural are safer than products that are not marketed as natural. This has given rise to an increase in use of the word organic within the cosmetic industry.
Recalling studies from his youth, the author notes that the term organic originally referred to the chemistry of the carbon atom. Then in 1973, an organization called the California Certified Organic Farmer was formed to promote organic farming in California, instilling in the public a new sense of the word organic. This group became one of the first to certify products with an organic seal of approval on the label. In 1979, the state made the organic labeling of foods a law subject to their controls.
In 1980, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) published its “Report and Recommendations on Organic Farming,”3 in which organic farming was described as a “production system that avoids or largely excludes the use of synthetically compounded fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators and livestock feed additives. To the maximum extent feasible, organic farming systems rely upon crop rotations, crop residues, animal manures, legumes, green manures, off-farm organic wastes, mechanical cultivation, mineral-bearing rocks and aspects of biological pest control to maintain soil productivity and tilth, to supply plant nutrients and to control insects, weeds and other pests.”4