In 'Dig This' I look at a specific item of interest in detail. This month it is about “Organic” slug pellets
Are the miracle newly developed slug pellets organic? Originally they were not marketed as such, but they have since been “approved for use in organic systems”. I fear that the word organic has been hijacked as a marketing tool.
What exactly is meant by the term organic?
From Rainproof to Organic
What is Organic?
It comes down to a product is organic if it is deemed to be so. A consumable product like eggs or butter is organic if it is certified to be organic ie it has been judged to be organically produced.
I am comfortable with this, a judgment must be made on the conditions and methods employed by the commercial producers of products such as eggs and butter.
As a non commercial organic gardener I am not at all comfortable with non organic products used in cultivation being certified as organic or acceptable in organic gardening. Products may fall in and out of acceptability – Bordeaux Mixture is a recent example of an 'organic' preparation becoming non organic. Not only is this open to abuse, since company profits are involved, but it goes against the fundamental principles which should underlie an organic approach, namely aiming for biodiversity, creating a balance in cultivation which is more natural and eco friendly.
The new slugbait or molluscicide is ferramol. This contains 1% ferric phosphate which is deadly to molluscs – slugs and snails. My concern is with this being presented as "organic" which is a far cry from being presented as currently deemed to be 'safe' which it may well be. I feel that the word 'organic' is being hijacked as a marketing tool to promote sales.
Organic or Inorganic?
The EEC safety sheet dated 17 September 2007 refers to it as an
'inorganic plant protection product' ie it is not organic. I can find no subsequent documentation from the EU, and neither could Gardening Organic ( formerly the HDRA) when I asked them. What the EEC did say is that it is not hazardous, something which is also claimed about other chemical pesticides which are also not organic.
For me, this is a very important issue. I cultivate my plot without chemicals. Ideally these slug pellets should be explicitly labelled 'non organic' and it should certainly not be implied that they they are organic, for they are not. You may think me to be pedantic, but I try to create as harmonious a natural environment as I possibly can for my plants to grow, using natural methods, often against very great odds. I specifically do not use or condone the use of 'quick fix' chemical methods.
Since slugs are the bane of the gardener’s life an 'organic' slug pellet is the chemical company’s dream. Large multinational companies insinuate themselves by providing web
sites purporting to help gardeners identify pests, weeds or diseases, when in fact they are only interested in selling their products. I am very suspicious that an industry which for years claimed against all the evidence that metaldehyde was safe, is using the word organic as a cynical means of increasing their profits.
Organic Farmers and Growers
Is Organic and safe the same thing?
The 'organic' certification on packaging of the ferramol slugbait comes from the 'Organic Farmers and Growers Ltd.'. In practice individuals purchasing this product off the shelf of a garden centre, will believe it to be 'organic'.
Is this a natural product?
In 1997 the United States Protection Agency granted this product an 'unconditional registration', but listed it quite clearly as a 'pesticide' and a 'chemical.' I find it difficult to understand how this can reasonably be presented as organic or even as suitable for organic use. In the registration of the product there is an assumption that it will not be applied in great quantity and clearly such registration could conceivably be reviewed. This has indeed happened to Bordeaux mixture: Gardening Organic used to state that its use was acceptable . There is also a clear analogy to fertilizer which contains nitrogen. Nitrogen is naturally found in farmyard manure, so this is perfectly acceptable and inherently 'organic'. Fertilisers which incorporate chemically produced nitrates are not acceptable. The crucial question for me is: Is the ferric phosphate in the slugbait manufactured or found naturally? If it it a manufactured chemical then to refer to organic in the certification is inaccurate and misleading.
If you agree or disagree with my arguments please contact me by e mail, just click on Walter, the pigeon.