Organic: Pesticides

Sep 1st '22

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) is currently undertaking a Climate Change and the Environment project taking stock of the rules regulating environmental claims. While this article represents current ASA positions, the project is reviewing our approach to these issues, which may lead to further rulings and updates to this guidance.


CAP understanding that in some limited circumstances, organic producers may be able to use certain “approved” substances, such as pesticides or chemicals, whilst still being able to bear the organic label. However, marketers should not go beyond the claim ‘organic’ to state or imply that organic food production uses no chemicals, fertilisers, composts, herbicides, pesticides, plant protection products, veterinary medicines, or any other similar term, if any relevant “approved” substances have or might have, been used in its production.


Whilst claims that organic food production uses fewer such substances are likely to be acceptable; marketers should not claim that organic food production is natural, uses only substances that occur in nature, or does not use artificial man-made substances, or any similar absolute terms, if any “approved” substances have, or might have, been used. Claims that organic food production is more natural or uses fewer artificial or man-made substances are likely to be acceptable. The ASA did not uphold a complaint that the claim “one way to reduce your exposure to pesticides is to eat more organic food” was misleading because the advertiser was able to demonstrate that pesticides were used less frequently in organic farming and were present less commonly in organic foods than in foods produced by other methods (Organic Trade Board, 26 September 2012).


Marketers should not claim that organic food is free from residues of pesticides or veterinary medicines, or any similar term, if any “approved” substances have, or might have, been used in production. Claims that particular substances are not used should not actively disparage non-organic farming or imply that non-organic farming is dangerous. A complaint that “one way to reduce your exposure to pesticides is to eat more organic food” was denigratory to other methods of food production was not upheld because the ASA considered the claim (which had been substantiated) merely presented organic production in a positive light rather than denigrated non-organic crop production (Organic Trade Board, 26 September 2012).


CAP is aware that some marketers may wish to state that not using pesticides is less harmful to the environment. The CAP Code requires that the basis of environmental claims is made clear in ads (rules 11.1) and that documentary evidence is held in relation to the ‘entire lifecycle’ of the product, process or company that is the subject of the environmental claim (Rule 11.4).


Source: CAP


Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the ASA. CAP’s AdviceOnline entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.


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