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Consumers are being confused into thinking products labelled ‘natural’ are also ‘organic’

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Consumers 'greenwashed' over eco-friendly garden centre products

Ruth Styles

7th January, 2011

Products labelled ‘organic’, ‘natural’ and ‘environmentally friendly’ have been found to confuse consumers in a survey by Which? Gardening and Garden Organic.

A leading organic charity has raised concerns about misleading labelling on supposedly eco-friendly garden centre products. 

In a survey conducted by Garden Organic in association with consumer watchdog title, Which? Gardening, consumers were found to have been confounded by products labelled ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ and thought that the two were interchangeable. 

Dr Margi Lennartsson of Garden Organic said consumers were being duped into buying products.
 ‘Consumers are evidently interested in buying products that have sustainable credentials – this is good news for the environment and proves that there is a pro-active group of greener gardeners out there. However because of baffling labelling gardeners are being led to make choices that may not be as sustainable as they seem.

‘It’s great that the industry is addressing the need and demand for more sustainable products, but the current approach to labelling is leading to a lack of clarity and this needs to be addressed.’

Other products were labelled ‘suitable for organic farming’ and ‘100 per cent chemical free’, both of which were considered to be misleading by Garden Organic experts. Of most concern were items marked ‘environmentally friendly’, a term which, according to the Government’s Green Claims Code, should be avoided.

Dr Lennartsson said consumers wishing to remain organic should not be misled into thinking these products were suitable for everyday use in garden.

‘Whilst we do not recommend these bought in pesticides, we do accept that some have a place, although we would always recommend utilising the garden’s natural resources as the best option. What we don’t want environmentally conscious gardeners misled into thinking is that these products are acceptable for everyday use,' he said.

Which? Gardening and Garden Organic are now calling for the horticulture industry to adopt a code of practice on labelling and are encouraging consumers to report anything misleading to Trading Standards.

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