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Why Organic Seaweed is Important

In the last couple of years, the global demand for seaweeds has skyrocketed. Its no surprise, as seaweed offers a stunning array of nutritional benefits and packs a unique salty and umami punch due to its high glutamate content. Seaweed is also used in a variety of non-food applications, including cosmetics and beauty products, scientific research, traditional medicinal applications, biofuels, fertilizers, and more. Considering all the uses for these aquatic plants and the increase in demand for such products, it is more important than ever to consider best practices for harvesting and processing these precious materials. It is this consideration that drives Mountain Rose Herbs to work closely with our harvest partners in offering organically certified seaweeds.

What Does it Mean for Seaweed to be Organic?

In general, organic certification status is a legal designation that is managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a function of the National Organic Program. Through this regulatory structure, the USDA oversees all of the national organic standards related to cultivation, processing, handling, and labeling certified organic products. There is an extensive list of allowed and prohibited substances, ingredients, and methods. For a product to be sold as certified organic, it must meet all those requirements. Since seaweed isnt cultivated in the soil like a traditional crop, there are additional considerations and requirements for organic certification.

One major condition is that organic sea vegetables must be harvested from defined oceanic areas of high ecological quality,” meaning that the beds must not be located near sources of bacteriological, chemical, or radioactive effluent or contamination. Part of how these areas are defined is by requiring specific buffer distances between the harvest location and cities/towns, major harbors, waste treatment facilities, and other potential sources of contaminants. Often, this means having a large number of harvest locations to choose from. Switching up the location also allows for regrowth of plant matter in between harvests, minimizing the overall effect on each bed.

White and red boat docked next to seaweed.

In addition to harvesting from specific areas, the method of harvesting is key to the continuing propagation of the seaweed bed. This is where having years (sometimes decades) of experience works in the favor of the harvesters, as they have developed the skills and expertise to remove the seaweed with minimal damage to the environment, while also taking into consideration the growth cycle of the species that they are harvesting. Removal of invasive species is also a recommended and important step to contribute to the overall ecological balance of the harvest areas. There is no short-term profit to be made in spending time harvesting products that can’t be sold, so it is purely about long term sustainability.

Just like any other crop, the material must also be kept separate from other products that are not organic through all stages of its handling. This helps ensure that the material does not get mixed in with another lot or come into contact with non-approved substances. Appropriate labeling, storage, and record-keeping help facilitate this effort.

Green and purple fresh seaweed up close.

All of these additional requirements add time and labor to an already labor-intensive task of harvesting plants from the ocean, but we, like our partners, believe it is well worth the effort to be able to offer certified organic seaweeds. We admire that our customers have high standards in regard to sustainability, and we would encourage you to dig into the harvesting and processing practices used in your favorite seaweed products as these botanicals become an increasingly popular part of your herbal regimen. The future availability of these plants, like so many other precious resources, is highly dependent on intentional and sustainable harvest methods. We appreciate you looking towards the future with us!

Want to take another Behind-the-scenes look at a seaweed harvest?

Learn How Our Bladderwrack is Harvested 


You may also enjoy:

Organic Herb Sourcing: The Bigger Picture
Supporting Plants & People Through Agroforestry
Seaweed Face Mask Recipe

Pinterest Image for Organic Seaweed Harvest


Topics: Inside Mountain Rose Herbs, Our Farms, Sustainability


Written by Katheryn on January 6, 2022

Kat Crane is a Procurement Agent at Mountain Rose Herbs. She holds a B.S. in Environmental Science and Sustainable Agriculture from Oregon State University and is a self-proclaimed soil nerd. She grew up in the verdant Willamette Valley where she cultivated a deep appreciation for the agricultural community around her and the challenges in the food system today. She is passionate about the potential for regenerative agricultural practices and soil health to reshape the production paradigm from a harmful one to a healing one, and that passion informs the work she does for Mountain Rose Herbs. In her free time, you will find her in the kitchen learning to cook new types of cuisine, foraging mushrooms with her family, exploring new camping spots across the state, or adding to her vinyl collection.

Woman breathing in mindfully next to an essential oil diffuser.


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