Location: Southeast US
Organic gardening has been widely adopted as a way to produce abundant crops of vegetables, keep lawns lush and green and fill flower beds with color every season. It’s not surprising that such a popular topic leads to sellers who offer natural or all-natural weed and insect control products and may use the word “organic” to describe a product that contains harmful chemicals.
Not surprisingly, many of us may have purchased these quasi-organic products in error. They are often priced lower than certified organic products and, after all, they claim to be natural or all-natural. Some questionable products may claim to be “made with organic ingredients” or “containing biological ingredients.
In advertising, this practice is called “green washing”. The term “organic” is strictly regulated by the government but use of the term “natural” doesn’t require a verification process. In the minds of many consumers, the two words seem interchangeable. With all the misinformation out there, I decided to do my homework. Here’s what I found:
Many products labeled as natural carry the “safe for children and pets” promise but if you read further, you may find “safe for children and pets five days after application”.
That statement won’t inspire confidence in a parent or pet owner which may be why it’s in the fine print.
How can you tell the difference between high quality organic products and copycats that claim to be natural? Organic gardeners don’t want to buy products that contain organic materials; we want products that contain ONLY organic ingredients. To find quality garden supplies, look for the Seal earned by meeting the standards of a reputable testing agency.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers seal to manufacturers who meet the USDA standards for organic garden products. The EPA publishes a list of the least toxic chemicals but toxicity may depend on the level of the chemical in a product.
A non-profit organization, the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) tests products and awards its seal of approval for those products meeting the tight organic standards of the Institute. This seal guarantees the product not only contains organic ingredients but that concentration and source of those ingredients has been reviewed.
Manufacturers who qualify for the USDA or OMRI seal will proudly display those seals on their packaging. You can be assured in choosing a product with the USDA or OMRI seal that your garden will be organic just as you planned it.