Reading Between the Lines: “Organic” and “Natural” Packaging Claims
When a manufacturer freely uses the terms "organic" or "natural" on its pesticides or repellents, you may easily be duped into buying a chemical pesticide, along with all of its negative, lingering side effects. Sometimes products can be considered exempt from certain federal rules and regulations, and their labeling can be misleading.
According to the guidelines set forth by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), any pesticide or repellent must be registered with the EPA. All EPA-registered products are rigorously reviewed against standards for human health and environmental safety, and one may only be sold if its review concludes that instructed use of the pesticide or repellent will not result in “unreasonable adverse effects on humans, the environment and non-target species.”
An exception to this rule exists for several products whose active ingredients appear on the EPA’s 25(b) List – a list of pesticides that are considered “minimum risk”.
Identifying Exempt Products
Exempt products are missing an EPA registration number, but instead will have a statement on their label that says something like, “the manufacturer represents that this product qualifies for exemption from FIFRA.” This allows the manufacturer some leeway in the way it presents the product, potentially misleading the customer into thinking it is organic, when in fact it is not approved for organic gardening.
For a pesticide to qualify for exemption, all inert ingredients must be on EPA List 4A, and must be disclosed on the label. Many exempt products, but not all, meet the requirements of the USDA National Organic Program. These products will likely bear a seal that says “For Organic Gardening”.
Be wary of companies who throw words like "organic" or "‘natural" all over their labeling without certification or listing by entities such as the USDA or OMRI®. Some attempt to mislead the consumer by making statements like, "Made with 100% Certified Organic Oils," for example, and try to pass the product off as being fully "organic." These companies rely on consumer ignorance – don’t be fooled. Instead, look for the proper certifications (link to article “Organic vs. Natural: What’s the Difference?”) to be reassured that what you are buying truly is certified organic.