Moving away from harsh chemicals and petroleum-based items is a great goal.  Striving to be organic is also great.  But be careful not to associate the two goals too closely.  Below, Don Engebretson, a Minnesota-based garden writer and landscape designer, advises caution with associating 'organic' with 'chemical-free'.

  "It's not a choice between organic and chemical products. Your choice is between organic chemical products and synthetic chemical products. Either way you are using chemicals."

  Horticultural soaps, for instance, are toxic and kill insects just like synthetic products do. "(Accidentally) spray yourself in the eyes with it and when you get back from the emergency room it'll dawn on you you're using a chemical," Engebretson said.

  "There are some organic gardening products that are much more dangerous and have a longer impact on the environment than synthetic products," Engebretson said.

  For instance, Engebretson said, there are two types of organic horticultural oils that are used to control fungal diseases. A vegetable-based version doesn't work well but a petroleum-based one does, he said. But the petroleum version is more harmful to the environment than the herbicide Roundup, he said.

  The same goes for copper sulfate - a "natural" fungicide that is used on organic tomato crops. The long list of harmful effects it has on humans and the environment is sobering. "It'll kill you," Engebretson said. "Copper sulfate makes Roundup look like mother's milk."

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  Excerpt taken from the Kansas City Star; article by Craig Sailor from the News Tribune;