(ARA) – The trend for gardening at home continues to grow – and people are taking a particular interest in raising their flowers and vegetables organically. With such prominent figures as Michelle Obama taking public initiatives in organic gardening, more and more products that cater to the trend are appearing.
Unfortunately, the increased interest in organic gardening has led to some confusion – and some deception – about what it means for a product to be “organic.” The labeling of products has become a minefield for consumers who are interested in eco-friendly agriculture. It can be difficult to know exactly what is meant by products labeled “natural,” “plant-based” or “organic.”
Official organic labeling comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Their seal comes in a few forms, denoting whether a product is “100 percent organic,” “organic,” or “made with organic” ingredients. Unfortunately, anecdotal evidence suggests this multi-tiered labeling system is also contributing to consumer confusion.
For example, for a product to be labeled 100 percent organic, everything in it must be certified organic. If it says just “organic,” that means that it must contain 95 percent certified organic ingredients. If a product contains 70 percent organic ingredients, it can be labeled as being “made with organic [ingredients].” Any product with less than 70 percent organic ingredients cannot carry the USDA seal.
Another thing to keep in mind is that a product labeled “natural” is not organic. While there might be some naturally occurring ingredients in the product, it doesn’t mean that it’s safe or earth-friendly – not to mention organic.
Perhaps in an effort to simplify the consumer’s “organic” label options, the USDA also directs consumers to other organizations that can help them determine whether or not the products they’re buying are 100 percent organic. One of those, the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) is a non-profit, independent organization that gives reviews of products and how they stand up to the National Organic Standards from the USDA.
For concerned consumers, they provide a comprehensive list (available online) of products that pass the test. “OMRI’s list is an invaluable tool for gardeners who want to keep their plots organic,” says Claude Boisvert, president of Tree World Plant Care Products. “It makes it easier than ever to find gardening supplements that are not harmful to the environment.”
If your main concern in planting an organic garden is providing your family with safe-to-eat, healthy food right from your own back yard, you’ll want to take the trouble to make sure you’re using truly organic gardening products. At the same time, you want your garden to look great and produce well.
One of the biggest challenges to organic gardening is keeping pests away in a way that is humane and safe. For smaller pests, it is increasingly easy to find organic insecticidal soaps that are safe unlike some traditional pesticides. Larger garden plant browsers can really wreak havoc unless you use a rabbit or deer repellent. An OMRI listed solution, developed in eco-conscious Sweden and now made in the United States, is Plantskydd. Its effectiveness and environmental soundness as an organic repellent have made it popular for farming and among gardeners, professional landscapers, nurseries, foresters and state conservation agencies.
It’s important to remember that you have the power to influence the products that are available to you. If keeping your organic garden truly organic is important to you, discuss your concerns with local retailers. By asking them to stock products that have been subject to rigorous standards, like those of OMRI, you’ll make it easier for everyone in your community to have access to verified organic materials.