There is a misconception that organic pesticides are always safe for humans and the environment. Pesticides are labeled organic because they come from natural sources. Organic farming doesn’t mean pesticide or chemical-free.
There are several approved organic pesticides. Just because a pesticide is Organic Materials Review Institute-approved doesn't mean it's safe for humans or the environment.
Read the label and search for signal words like "danger," "warning" and "caution.” Caution items have low toxicity but can irritate the skin and eyes, and are toxic if ingested. Warning items have medium toxicity if eaten, absorbed by the skin or inhaled. Danger items are highly toxic and often have a “Poison” label. The label also lists hazards to humans and the environment.
Neem oil, an excellent organic fungicide and insecticide, comes from the neem tree. "Caution" is the signal word for neem oil. Handle neem oil carefully, as it can irritate the skin. It is also a bee hazard and should be sprayed when bees are not active, before about 8 a.m. or after about 5 p.m.
Champ WG, copper hydroxide, carries the signal word "Danger" on the label. It is corrosive, causes irreversible eye damage and is harmful if swallowed or inhaled. Personal protective equipment must be worn while mixing, handling and applying this fungicide. This includes long sleeves and pants, shoes and socks, chemical-resistant gloves and eye protection.
Identify your pesticide properly, and choose the treatment right for you. Read the label carefully and follow it. The label is the law.
Use appropriate caution when using any pesticide, whether synthetic or organic.
Jennifer Bearden is an agent at the Okaloosa County Extension office in Crestview.