by Lee Rinehart, Director of Education & Outreach, Pennsylvania Certified Organic
Sustainable harvesting of wild-grown medicinal plants is becoming a major concern to reduce the threat to forest plant biodiversity. Wild ecologies can be fragile, and given the demand for medicinal plants, the industry is looking for ways to verify the conscientious production and harvest of wild-grown products.
In response to this demand Pennsylvania Certified Organic (PCO) has established a voluntary Forest Grown Verification Program for forest grown products that are sustainably and legally produced and harvested. The program currently focuses on American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) products from private land, and PCO is currently working to add several other forest products to the list including black cohosh (Actaea racemosa), goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), false unicorn root (Chamaelirium luteum), slippery elm (Ulmus rubra), forest-farmed mushrooms, and forest farmed leeks. The program standards for ginseng were developed by PCO through research of federal and state regulations, consultations with industry professionals and PCO members, and information from scientific publications.
Getting more forest grown producers on board is the principle focus of UpS and PCO, evidenced by a new program designed to incentivize verification by reducing the costs to producers. The Forest Grown Cost Share program is a joint effort between UpS and PCO to offset verification fees for PCO Verified Forest Grown production operations. UpS has dedicated funds specifically for the program that will be administered by PCO, with the potential to continue the program on an annual basis.
“PCO is excited to work with United Plant Savers to encourage forest grown verification,” says PCO’s Director of Education and Outreach, Lee Rinehart. “The funds provided by UpS for the cost share program help reduce the financial burden of growers who harvest forest products with careful attention to the sustainability of forest ecologies. Third-party verification communicates to consumers that the products they purchase were stewarded and legally harvested in a manner that does not degrade the long-term regenerative capability of the wild population.”
Interested producers and handlers of forest grown products can contact Adam Seitz, PCO Certification Specialist at (814) 422-0251 to obtain a Forest Grown System Plan, or visit www.paorganic.org/forestgrown for more information and a downloadable PCO Forest Grown Verification Program Manual