As interest in gardening and growing food at home has increased, many people who are new to the hobby want to adopt gardening practices that are safe for their families and pets, as well as the environment.
To maintain an organic garden that is free of synthetic chemicals, it’s important to know and understand some of the acronyms and logos that you may find on the product labels at your local garden center.
The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) is a U.S. federal law that guides pesticide regulation to ensure the safety of users, consumers and the environment. Typically, before any new pesticide can be sold in the United States, it must go through a lengthy registration and review process with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It must be shown that use of the product according to specifications “will not generally cause unreasonable adverse effects on the environment.” After a pesticide is registered, it is strictly regulated and has restrictions on use, application rate and other aspects.
Because many natural pest control products contain ingredients that are generally recognized as safe (GRAS), the EPA developed a list of active and inert ingredients that pose minimum risk, exempting them from the registration requirement. FIFRA 25(b) pesticides are made with ingredients that are safe for people and the environment. As long as a product contains only ingredients that are listed on the approved list and is labeled appropriately, it can be classified as a minimum risk pesticide and federal registration is not required. Most states, however, have their own statutes and regulations regarding pesticides, and FIFRA 25(b) products are required to be reviewed and registered in each state in which they are sold.
Insecticides and fungicides like Earth’s Ally Insect Control and Disease Control that are FIFRA 25(b) exempt will state this exemption clearly on product labels. These products offer gardeners more flexibility in terms of application and timing than the highly-regulated EPA products.
The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) is an international nonprofit organization that determines which “input” products (those used to produce organic food) are allowed for use in certified organic operations under the USDA National Organic Program. By focusing solely on input products, OMRI offers essential expertise that supports the organic certification process.
To be included on the OMRI list, products must be reviewed and verified as having ingredients and formulations that are allowed under the organic standards. The review process does not “certify” an input product as organic but recognizes that it has been found to have ingredients that are safe for organic growing, which helps gardeners feel confident that products bearing the OMRI Listed® logo are safe for use and meet USDA requirements.
While OMRI covers the “inputs” used in creating organic products, the USDA Certified Organic seal is reserved for the “outputs” of organic farming—from food, cotton and other fibers, to makeup and wine. Products bearing the Certified Organic seal are produced using only approved pest-control materials and do not use toxic or synthetic fertilizers, along with being overseen by a certifying agent to ensure all organic regulations are followed.
For a farm to become a certified organic growing facility, it must undergo a three-year transition period, where no prohibited inputs can be used. Once that period is complete, farms work with certifiers to complete a plan that explains how the food will be produced and all of the inputs that will be used. Certified organic farms must undergo an annual inspection to continue using the Certified Organic seal. And while organic farms are required by law to first use mechanical, cultural, biological and natural materials to control pest and disease, they still have restricted access to 27 synthetic pest control products if natural measures don’t work (compared to over 900 products available to the conventional farmer).
Where things can get a bit confusing for gardeners seeking natural gardening products is in the use of the word “organic” in labeling and marketing. Currently, this term is not regulated for non-food products, such as pesticides. That’s why it’s important to cross reference with FIFRA 25(b) guidelines and the OMRI Listed® product listings to ensure that the pesticides, fertilizers and soils you are using in your garden are safe for you, your family and the planet.
At Earth's Ally, we are offer a complete lineup of FIFRA 25(b) gardening products that have been scrutinized and tested by independent laboratories to ensure they are both effective and safe for People, Pets & Planet. Earth’s Ally Weed and Grass Killer spray delivers visible results in 3 hours with no harsh chemicals. Our Field-Tested, Farmer Approved® Insect Control and Disease Control sprays have been selected from the most effective OMRI Listed® formulas in the organic agricultural industry and bottled specifically for the home organic gardener.