Organic E-juice?

There’s a lot of buzz about organic e juice lately.

What is organic e juice? How does it differ from conventional blends? Is it really worth the higher price tag, or is it just a marketing ploy?

If you were to ask most people what makes organic e juice better than conventional blends you’re likely to get a blank stare, or maybe some generalities about natural ingredients. “Organic” has become a catch phrase in our culture, and the meaning it carries has been heavily influenced by marketing and social agenda.

According to the USDA:

Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled ‘organic,’ a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meetUSDA)

Sustainability and good land stewardship are noble pursuits. If a greener future is your motive for seeking out organic products, then by all means, do all you can. But if you, like so many Americans, have been led to believe that “organic” means healthier, then let’s investigate that a bit further.

Nicotine

First and foremost, nicotine is not included on the list acceptable organic ingredients. As a matter of fact, it is expressly prohibited in organic cultivation, despite the fact that it is the safest chemical pesticide available. So, if your e juice has any nicotine, or originates in a facility using nicotine as an ingredient, it does not meet the criteria for an “organic” product.

Propylene Glycol

For an e juice to be considered “organic”, it must contain no propylene glycol (PG), as this is a manufactured compound. Ethyl alcohol is generally substituted for PG as a solvent as it has been certified for use in organic products. PG is often used as a safer alternative to ethyl alcohol, as it does not share its negative effects (DOW). It is only because PG is considered a synthetic derivative that it is prohibited in “organic” products, while the more harmful ethyl alcohol is acceptable.

Vegetable Glycerin

Vegetable glycerin is accepted in organic products, provided the producer is certified by the National Organic Standards Board and the USDA. Of course, it is debatable whether the method of cultivation used in producing the vegetable matter has any impact on the product. The purity requirements for “organic” VG are no more strict than those for kosher, and while kosher VG can be certified as “organic” it is not necessarily so.

The organic label does not actually apply to any attribute of quality. It is strictly concerned with the process.

Flavorings

Again, from the USDA:

For foods made with organic ingredients (i.e., 50-95 percent organic ingredients), all of the flavor constituents used in the natural flavor must be from natural sources that have not been chemically modified in such a way that makes them different from their natural chemical state. Additionally, the following conditions must be satisfied:

  • The natural flavor does not contain propylene glycol, any artificial preservative,
    and is not extracted with hexane.
    • Manufacturers must provide written documentation in their Organic Handling
    12 Plan, which shows that efforts were made toward the ultimate production of an
    organic natural flavor as listed in the stepwise progression below:
    – Natural flavor constituents and non-synthetic carrier base and preservative
    agents
    – Organic flavor constituents, organic carrier base, and organic preservative agents
    – Organ flavor constituents extracted using organically produced solvent organic carrier base, and organic preservative agents.
  • The rules for flavor extraction derive from the arbitrary definition of “organic”, rather than any beneficial effect of the process.

    Quality

    As we see, there are really no qualitative requirements for organic products. That means the perception that “organic” means better is really just a product of marketing.

    A 2012 study at Stanford University found that there was no discernible difference in the nutritional quality of organic food products compared to conventional counterparts.

    Organic farming does not produce a crisper apple. It does not create a juicier pear. Studies have shown that organic practices produce fruit with less consistency and uniformity of shape and size, there is no significant difference in taste.

    Ecology

    It’s taken as a given that using less modern pesticides and fertilizers results in more sustainable, more “natural” farming.

    Pesticides

    Contrary to the marketing message, organic farmers do use pesticides. They just use pesticides that depend on unprocessed chemicals. There is an assumption that a natural chemical must be safe, and a synthetic one must be poisonous. But the fact is that “organic” pesticides are at least as toxic as synthetics.

    Fossil Fuels

    Fossil fuel use is not factored into organic certification. You can burn as much diesel fuel as you like bringing in your organic crop. Given that organic farming is only about 80% as productive as conventional practices, We can assume a 20% increase in fossil fuel use, and resulting CO2 emission.

    Furthermore, the high demand for “organic” means that specialized producers are shipping their product to a global consumer base. This means that food miles may be wiping out any ecological benefit of land and water stewardship inherent in organic farming.

    In Conclusion

    The choices we make define who we are and what’s important to us. If you have looked at the costs and benefits of organic farming, and still feel that it is consistent with your world view and values, then stay true to that.

    But if you are one of the millions following the “organic” trend because marketing agencies and activists have told you that it is healthier, safer and cleaner, it may be time to check those preconceived notions.

    organic hipsterAfter all, only hipsters buck convention solely because it’s conventional. ;)

    If there is anything the nonconformist hates worse than a conformist it’s another nonconformist who doesn’t conform to the prevailing standards of
    nonconformity.

    Bill Vaughan

    *this post originally appeared at the Vapor Cafe Blog