Organic berry objections

Anti-pesticide activists call for stricter regulations for organic strawberry plants

Protest of organic-strawberry chemical-treatment standards has reached the federal level.

The Pesticide Action Network and three San Francisco Bay Area berry growers submitted a letter of complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in August, according to media sources. Their letter calls for tighter regulations on organic-berry production, as pesticides are often used during the nonfruiting nursery stage of plants that delivers berries to farmers’ markets under the “organic” label.

Current regulations require fruits labeled organic be grown for three years without synthetic pesticides. Most strawberries in California are grown in five-year cycles, with virtually all plants—including those that will produce organic berries—undergoing chemical treatment before they begin to bear fruit. The use of fumigants on strawberries is particularly troublesome, as strawberries are known to absorb chemicals more than other fruits.

The letter asks that the USDA “act with some urgency” to assure a berry that is organic from the get-go.