Can a product be labeled as organic if pesticides have been applied?


I've been trying to find an answer to a question about pesticides, and I'm wondering if you can help.  A friend has the understanding that pesticides can be applied after harvest and still be called organic.  Do you know if a product can legally be labeled as organic, if pesticides have been applied at any time--either before or after harvest?  I'd greatly appreciate any knowledge you might be able to share! (K.M.)


A common misconception regarding both USDA Certified Organic production and other variant certifying programs of organic produce production and handling is that no pesticides are used. There are various Allowed, Restricted, and Prohibited materials defined by the National Organic Program that include various inorganic (such as copper, and sulfur) and natural organic (such as various plant extracts, essential oils, and other botanicals)  pesticides but also allow various sanitizers and disinfectants with certain restrictions in dose and residue contact with non-food or food handling surfaces. Postharvest treatments of certain disinfectants or wash and cooling water treatments, such as chlorine, are allowed with restrictions for dose.

Listed below are various resources if you are interested to find out more specific information. The OMRI website has a fairly user-friendly listing of many of the Allowed pesticides and postharvest materials approved for use.

In general, pest control products for home garden in nursery retailers have clear labeling for their organic or Certified Organic status. The label below USDA Organic provides an easily recognized symbol. Other products that are made with natural pesticidal materials but have not sought USDA approvals may also be comparable in active and inert (carrier materials) ingredients. Always read the label.

Information Resources

Organic Trade Association

Hope this answers your question.

–Trevor Suslow