ASA rejects complaint about organic ad’s pesticide claim

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The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled that an organic industry advertisement did not mislead consumers about pesticide exposure.

An unnamed complainant had challenged statements made in an advertisement that forms part of the current ‘Organic. Naturally different’ campaign.

The ad showed two apples with a speech bubble next to each. The first speech bubble read “I’m telling you, babes, I’ve gotta have my treatments” and the other “Not my style hun, I’m organic”.  Text underneath the image stated “They may look the same, but one way to reduce your exposure to pesticides is to eat more organic food”.

The complainant challenged whether the claim “one way to reduce your exposure to pesticides is to eat more organic food”. The complainant also asserted that the advertisement was “denigrating to non-organic crop production”.

The Organic Trade Board which placed the ad (created by London agency Haygarth) argued that ad did not mislead consumers. It presented the ASA with information from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) which confirmed that under EU regulations, pesticides are permissible only in certain circumstances and that “prevention of damage caused by pests, diseases and weeds shall rely primarily on the protection by natural enemies”

The OTB stated that, whereas over 300 pesticides were routinely used in non-organic farming, organic certification bodies in the UK often restricted the number of pesticides allowable even further than the EU Regulations. The organic trade group also referred the ASA to testing carried out by Defra’s Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues in Food which has regularly detected pesticide residues in 30-40% of food samples, but only in a very small number of organic food samples.

The OTB also stated that as part of its EU funding for this campaign it had had to submit the claims to the Rural Payments Agency (RPA), which was part of Defra. It provided a copy of the approval it had received and said it would not have been given if the ad had been viewed as denigrating non-organic farming.

After reviewing the evidence the ASA agreed that the OTB had demonstrated that pesticides were used less frequently in organic farming and were present less commonly in organic foods than in foods produced by other methods.  It concluded that the claim “one way to reduce your exposure to pesticides is to eat more organic food” was not misleading. It also agreed that the ad did not denigrate non-organic farming.

• The ASA’s full ruling can be read here

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