Can Your Target Compounds Be Free of Pesticides?

While pesticides protect crops during the growing and production stages, these chemicals need to be eliminated from concentrated compounds to ensure they are safe for commercial consumption.

The essential oils market will grow to more than $33 billion by 2027 (from just over $18 billion in 2020), while the cannabis oil market reached $4.8 billion in 2019. With more consumers now trusting these extracts, analytical labs and production facilities need to adopt modern processes and platforms to ensure they provide pure, safe, and consistent products to the market.

Why You Should Eliminate Pesticides from Your Final Products

Regulatory bodies worldwide are pressing for the reduced use of pesticides in the production of food, herbs, and other organic crops. Since the introduction of pesticides in agricultural industries, it's become clear that these compounds can negatively affect human and animal populations' health. In most agricultural sectors, regulators provide lists of approved pesticides and directives for the sustainable use of these chemicals and fix the Maximum Residues Limits (MRLs) in or on food or feed.

The cannabis growing industry is lagging when it comes to the approved use of certain types of pesticides. Due to varying region-specific laws and regulations, it's common for producers to resort to their own solutions to protect their crops. In these situations, analytical laboratories and extract producers need to identify the pesticides used and develop workflows that eliminate them from their target compounds, usually cannabinoids (CBDs).

Remediating pesticides from extracts is vital whenever producing concentrates of any natural material. During most extraction and purification workflows, pesticides also concentrate by as much as ten times their original potency. A range of techniques enables facilities to remove pesticides during their extraction and purification processes, ensuring they produce high-quality, safe, and consistent products.

Remediating pesticides from extracts is vital whenever producing concentrates of any natural material. During most extraction and purification workflows, pesticides also concentrate by as much as ten times their original potency.

Techniques to Eliminate Pesticides from Target Compounds

Post-producers don't always control the supply chains where they source their raw materials. Therefore it's necessary to develop a method that helps identify and eliminate any hazardous compounds used by their suppliers. Analyzing the target compound samples to understand the nature of the contaminants present in the material is the best way to ensure purity.

Based on this analysis, the lab can develop the necessary techniques to eliminate the contaminants and purify their extracts to contain only the specific compound of interest. After developing the method, you'll need to scale your techniques to produce the quantities required for commercial production. Ensuring you can achieve the desired repeatability and commercial scaling is possible using the following means.

Extraction Techniques for Purity Analysis

Most foods or natural samples are complex in nature, therefore a sample preparation is most often required before the analysis to achieve reliable analytical results. Solid Phase Extraction (SPE) is the most selective isolation/clean-up technique to reduce matrix effects during the analysis and guarantee accurate and reproducible analytical results.

As manual SPE is labor-intensive, you can free up your human resources by automating your entire SPE workflow for subsequent purification. Extraction usually starts with a SPE workflow to condition, load, wash, and elute the target compounds. An approach to SPE ensures you can automate your chosen method to increase throughput once you are ready to scale the process.

Gilson's family of ASPEC® automated liquid handling systems can handle a wide range of SPE formats with 1, 3, and 6 mL cartridges under positive pressure to improve traceability, reproducibility, and productivity.

Figure 1. The ASPEC 274 System for positive pressure solid phase extraction (SPE) maximizes throughput by processing up to four samples in parallel.

Purification Techniques

While different methodologies exist, eliminating all pesticides from your target compounds requires a precise workflow with accurate repeatability from the processes and techniques involved. Although High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and flash chromatography are suitable for purification, in some cases, these techniques are cost-prohibitive and time-consuming. A more efficient purification technique is Centrifugal Partition Chromatography (CPC), as it provides superior purification of samples while reducing costs and increasing productivity.

CPC allows lab, pilot, and process scale purification by filtering out contaminants and pesticides, delivering target compounds of up to 99% purity. As it doesn't use silica columns during the static phase, CPC is a cost-effective solution for eliminating pesticides from your target compounds. It also reduces the amount of solvent required and increases your throughput with faster flow rates.

CPC is also versatile enough to accommodate any of your liquid-liquid purification methods. Using a VERITY® CPC 1000 purification system, it's possible to produce between 3.5 and 7.2 kg of extract per day (as demonstrated in the case of CBD purification).

Figure 2. CPC 1OOO is a reusable, silica-free centrifugal partition chromatography (CPC) column that offers high injection capacities of milligram to multi-kilograms resulting in 95% recoveries with 99% purity or better.

Gilson Purification and Extraction Solutions for Your Workflow

As new compounds of interest continue to drive the biomedical and pharmaceutical sciences, establishing a safe and consistent workflow that delivers the highest purity of extracts is vital for today's organizations. Gilson is a leader in extraction, purification, and verification solutions that can scale from the analytical to process scales. We work with scientists to develop their processes and provide support every step of the way, including scaling workflows from lab to production quantities.

To find out more about how Gilson can assist with your pesticide elimination and extract purification processes, speak to one of our experts today.