Thanks to deceptive marketing practices, it's sort of a buyer beware situation out there for anyone wanting to grow an organic food garden. It turns out that organic can be a bit of a gray area, and one savvy reader hipped us to a really interesting situation where that's the case. She also wrote about her experience on her personal blog, if you want her take on this product.
Reader Mary wrote in about a confusing discovery about another organic product after reading about my post about Miracle Gro earlier this week. This time, it was an insecticide. Mary says:
I got a BOGO coupon for Home Depot via newsletter email for Ortho Elementals yesterday. I was about to run to the store to buy it because the product description on HD's website of the insecticidal soap under the Description tab says "The soap can be used up to the day of harvest and is organic for safe use" and "Organic formula for safe use in your garden". Later the same day I was refered to your site for something else and read about green wash deceptive tactics and double checked on the Ortho product. On further inspection I found under the product page on HD's website on the specifications tab it lists it as "Organic : No"
I just double-checked, and sure enough, there are the claims. Here are screenshots of the organic claims on the Home Depot website:
and the "Organic: No" that she discovered:
So, why would Home Depot say the product is organic, but then say that it's not organic? That's because the product is organic. Except when it isn't.
When Mary looked up the product on the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) site, she found that the product was OMRI listed, but not for food plants:
When used as an herbicide may only be used for farmstead maintenance (roadways, ditches, right of ways, building perimeters) and ornamental crops, nonfood crop uses only; use on any food crop or fallow fields is prohibited."
That means that Ortho Elementals is organic if you're spraying flowers (unless you plan to eat them), but it's not organic if you're spraying it on food. Home Depot definitely could have done a better job conveying that, as could Ortho, and unfortunately it's up to us as consumers to read labels and make sure we're buying what we think we're buying.
Who knew that growing an organic garden could be so tricky?
While I was clicking around the OMRI site, I decided to see what other Scotts products were listed, and lo and behold: I may not have to make the return trip to the store after all. The OMRI website DOES turn up this product as OMRI listed. My first go-round, I searched for "Miracle Gro" and got no results. A search for "Scotts," however, turned up a listing updated on 6/3/2011 that includes Miracle-Gro Organic Choice All Purpose Organic Plant Food. I've added an update to the top of my previous post about Miracle-Gro Organic Choice to reflect that discovery.