Keyword search

Synthetic versus Nonsynthetic Determination


How do I determine whether my product or ingredient is synthetic or nonsynthetic?

The USDA National Organic Standards define synthetic as follows:
"A substance that is formulated or manufactured by a chemical process or by a process that chemically changes a substance extracted from naturally occurring plant, animal, or mineral sources, except that such term shall not apply to substances created by naturally occurring biological processes."

Determining whether a substance is synthetic can be a very technical task. OMRI recommends following these steps to help you determine whether a substance is synthetic:

  1. Search for your substance in the OMRI Generic Materials List© online, or in the printed copy.  (if you are using the printed version be sure to check the OMRI website for the any updates). The OMRI Generic Materials List specifies for each substance whether synthetic or nonsynthetic versions of the substances are permissible for use in organic agriculture or organic food processing. The OMRI Generic Materials List is organized into three sections based on the product's intended use: CROPS, LIVESTOCK, and PROCESSING & HANDLING. Look for the “Use Class” that is specific to your products intended use.
  2. If you do not find the substance in the appropriate section of the OMRI Generic Materials List, or if you are still unsure whether your particular ingredient/product would be considered synthetic, look at the National Organic Program's website for the "Proposed Decision Tree to Distinguish Synthetic and Nonsynthetic Substances."

OMRI policy prevents our staff from providing specialized advice to any individual or company. However, if you have a question about whether a particular substance is synthetic and it is not answered by using OMRI's application resources, then please contact us. Please keep in mind that OMRI may not be able to determine whether a particular substance is synthetic without reviewing your complete application.