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Hi Nancy –
Kelp and seaweed extracts have been used for years by organic gardeners. The results are well known. However, in the last couple years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has decided that kelp should fall under one of two categories. It’s either a plant growth “regulator” (PGR) or a plant “vitamin hormone.”
As a plant growth regulator, seaweed must be put through a lengthy process that includes long and expensive testing. As a plant hormone, it must carry an EPA-approved statement that says it is not approved for use on food crops. It also requires careful labeling. No fruit or vegetables, say a tomato, can be pictured on the label. That would be a violation of EPA rules and would carry a stiff fine.
Please see our article New Labeling on Seaweed Fertilizer Explained here.
The following is a letter we recently received from Maxicrop explaining the label issue:
I am writing to you in regards to the email you sent about our labels. In the last year and a half, the liquid seaweed companies have come under the eye of the US EPA. The EPA claims that liquid seaweed must now either be registered as a plant growth regulator or a plant vitamin hormone. There is no way around this. In order to register as a plant growth regulator, the process involves several years and a 6 figure investment in testing. To register as a plant vitamin hormone, we need to have that statement about food crop sites and severally limit what we can state on the label. Unfortunately, its the path of least resistance. We are currently working on plant growth regulator label but that won’t be complete for another year or so. As for the pictures on the label, we had to remove the food items because the EPA will fine you if they feel your intent is to mislead the consumer. In other words, we have the saying about food crop site but we have a picture of a tomato, the EPA will fine you per sale because the tomato is a food.
I know this defies any logic but we have fought this for over a year with the help of several law firms in both Chicago and Washington DC, for the time being, this is the only option we have to continue marketing the product. I have several friends with other companies who have defied the rulings and were fined well over a a quarter million dollars.
I hope this helps!