Spirulina organic or not: what are the differences?

Spirulina attracts more and more French people. Organic or not, made in France or imported, which to choose? The difference is largely a question of fertilizer.

The spirulina sold in France, whether organic or not, remains mainly imported. // IMAGE: Adobe Stock

With total consumption estimated at around 500 tons in France, spirulina grown abroad is flooding the French market. And for good reason: French production remains insufficient to meet demand. The French Spirulina Federation (FSF) represents between 60 and 70% of producers depending on the year, with around 130 members, for a production of almost 45 tons. Therefore, French production covers about 15% of demand. And if you are looking to get organic and French spirulina, know that it remains even rarer.

A difference that is largely based on fertilizers

To grow spirulina, you need fertilizers, lots of fertilizers. In France, to produce 1 ton of spirulina, spirulina producers consume an average of 0.75 tons. Because of the amount involved, the question of the origin of the fertilizers and their production is therefore very important.

The classification of spirulina as seaweed according to Regulation No. 2021/1165 only allows the use of mineral nitrogen of plant or natural origin to cultivate it. It therefore effectively excludes urea, the most widely used fertilizer in the agricultural world, but also agricultural waste such as manure. The organic fertilizers available today are made from soybeans imported from Latin America and sugarcane from Thailand, according to the FSF.

Also read: The regulatory puzzle of French organic spirulina

Foreign or local organic spirulina?

French spirulina producers therefore prefer not to engage in organic spirulina production. ” Of our 130 members, to our knowledge, about ten produce organic and one is in conversion », assures Amandine Leruste-Calpena, Research and Development Project Manager at the French Spirulina Federation (FSF). Unless “Agriculture France” or “Grown in France” is explicitly mentioned, spirulina labeled AB is very much imported spirulina.

In fact, the imported organic spirulina sold in France comes from foreign producers who certify their spirulina according to local specifications, usually outside of Europe. They will then benefit from equivalence schemes to market it in Europe. Result: ” Now products imported from Mongolia, India, Madagascar or the United States flood the market”shared by Amandine Leruste-Calpena.

Buy local and French or import organic?

In France, spirulina is produced in greenhouse basins, based on the reproduction of the natural living conditions of the cyanobacterium. Spirulina grows in fresh water enriched with nutrients and mineral salts: nitrogen, carbon, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, iron, trace elements (zinc, copper, etc.). The Research and Development Project Manager at the French Spirulina Federation assures us: ” French spirulina is ecological, because it is grown from March to October in natural conditions, the environment is not artificially lit or heated. Its culture requires only the nutrients necessary for the metabolism of spirulina. »

Yannick Lopez is the producer of Essen’Ciel spirulina in the Hautes-Alpes. While he leads the rest of his farm in organic and AB certified agriculture, he chose not to turn to organic spirulina. He who produces about 300 kg of spirulina called ” farmer » each year explains his choice. ” We are faced with aberrations: soy or sugarcane – which is above all food – undergoes an industrial process to obtain mineral nitrogen to meet organic specifications. » He prefers urea, a synthetic mineral fertilizer produced in Europe. ” The only difference between organic and peasant spirulina is the source of mineral nitrogen…”, he assured. The size difference is the same, but the choice is yours!

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