Organic foods are not necessarily pesticide-free. In the United States, only pesticides that meet the criteria of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program may be used in organic crop production.
Sometimes people refer to pesticides based on natural substances as "organic pesticides," or "naturally derived pesticides." Pesticides allowed in organic agriculture are typically not human-made, although there are exceptions. They tend to have natural substances like minerals and plant extracts as ingredients. However, not all natural substances are allowed in organic production. Natural substances like arsenic, strychnine, and tobacco dust (nicotine sulfate) are prohibited.
- Learn about the differences between organic and conventional food production. Terms like "free-range," "hormone-free," and "natural" do not mean organic.
- Both the active ingredients and the other ingredients in a pesticide product must meet the USDA's criteria to be allowed for use in organic agriculture. For example, a pesticide containing an approved active ingredient would not be suitable for organic agriculture if it also contains a synthetic "other ingredient" such as petroleum distillates.
- Pesticide product labels may display a certain logo, indicating they meet USDA criteria for use in organic production. Organic farms may need to follow additional rules specified by their accredited certifying agent.
- If you're thinking about going organic, you can learn about the certification process through the USDA Organic Program.
If you have questions about this, or any pesticide-related topic, please call NPIC at 800-858-7378 (8:00am - 12:00pm PST), or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last updated June 09, 2023