Our viewpoint—pesticide stewardship

At ScottsMiracle-Gro, our mission is helping people of all ages express themselves on their own piece of the Earth. This requires us to equip homeowners with the best tools to manage pests in their homes, gardens and lawns.

We know that most consumers do not actively want to use pesticides. Rather, they see these products as a necessary tool to protect their families, pets and home from the dangers and damage often caused by pests. The destruction caused by an insect infestation, overgrown weeds or plant diseases can cause serious issues, including:

  • Increased human health threats such as asthma or allergies
  • Increased exposure to pests like mosquitoes and ticks that can carry diseases such as West Nile Virus and Lyme disease
  • Reduced property values due to serious damage to lawns, gardens and homes

As the industry leader in lawn and garden solutions, we have a clear responsibility: to provide consumers with effective pest control products that are easy to use and safe when used as directed. It is one that we embrace and take seriously. Carrying out this responsibility requires us to take a firm position in support of a scientifically based regulatory system, provide effective consumer education through communication tools like this website and product labeling, and commit to an innovation process that always seeks a better solution.

Our approach

In selecting ingredients for our products, we take several factors into consideration:

  • Efficacy
  • Safety to humans
  • Safety to animals
  • Impact on the environment
  • Interaction with other ingredients
  • Interaction with the product packaging
  • Use of the lowest active ingredient rate necessary for product effectiveness

We invest more than $30 million annually in Research & Development (R&D) at our industry-leading research facilities and with external partners. This enables us to rely on rigorous science to inform our decisions when evaluating current pesticide-containing products or developing new ones.

Our scientists are charged with seeking to improve product effectiveness while continuing to meet or exceed regulatory safety standards.Over the years, our approach has allowed us to create products that actually reduce the amount of active ingredients in our products while still maintaining product effectiveness. Achieving that balance can be time consuming. Indeed it’s not unusual for it to take years and upwards of tens of thousands of dollars for a pesticide to be federally approved by the U.S. EPA. Then, it often takes several more years of research and review to bring a new product to the consumer marketplace.

Our support of regulatory oversight

We actively support informed, science-based regulations designed to ensure that products containing pesticides are safe for use in homes, lawns and gardens.

Pesticides distributed in the United States must be registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). To obtain approval, government scientists require more than 100 different tests and studies to ensure the pesticide does not harm people or the environment when used according to the product label. As part of this process, we submit efficacy data, formula information about the product, as well as proposed master product labels for government review.

After federal approval is obtained, we then seek approval from every state in which the pesticide product will be sold. Our internal standard for state registration is based on those states with the strictest requirements. In other words, our products often exceed the requirements of some state regulatory agencies.

This overall process is designed to protect consumers and, we believe, has been successful in doing so for decades. That is why state or locally driven legislative bans on products or ingredients—after being approved by regulatory bodies that apply scientific rigor—only weaken that process. Policy or regulation of pesticides or pesticide products should be based on demonstrable, sound science and credible academic or third-party expert analysis. For these reasons, we support the existing review and approval processes of the U.S. EPA.

It is worth noting that ScottsMiracle-Gro does not have a perfect record. We have made mistakes in our regulatory efforts in the past due to human error. Several years ago, the U.S. EPA and several state agencies issued fines and penalties which, we agree, were justified under the circumstances. This motivated us to improve our internal regulatory process by bringing industry experts in-house to manage these programs and improve compliance and monitoring checkpoints; the result has greatly increased our ability to prevent registration mistakes from what our capabilities were in 2008.

Our approach in practice

Our respect for the integrity of the regulatory system is why, for example, we believe glyphosate, the active weed control ingredient in many Roundup® branded products and in one Ortho® GroundClear® product, is safe for the consumer when used as directed. There are hundreds of health and safety studies on glyphosate, many from independent researchers that support its safe use.

We know that millions of consumers continue to use glyphosate with confidence for non-selective weed control but that others would prefer a different choice. That is why we introduced a new non-selective weed control product under the Ortho® GroundClear® line that relies on the active ingredient ammonium nonanoate that is OMRI listed.

Consumer preference is also why, in 2016, our Ortho® line became the first major brand to begin removing a class of chemistry called neonicotinoids or “neonics” from our outdoor garden control products. Concerns about these pesticides were raised, including by some environmental groups who believe these ingredients are harmful to pollinator populations. In contrast to the vast scientific record that supports the safe use of glyphosate, research on neonics is ongoing. Even so, today there is no scientific conclusion that this concern is valid.  Indeed, farmers continue to use neonics as a productive tool, and they remain in good standing with the U.S. EPA. However, the amount of visibility over this debate fueled consumer concern about the issue.

Today, neonics remain in less than one percent of our outdoor products and we are making progress towards our goal of removing all neonics from outdoor products beginning in 2020; this is two years ahead of schedule.

While we chose to remove neonics from our garden products, we remain opposed to state or local legislative proposals to ban the ingredients. Government action around these issues should be determined, not by politics, but by a fact-based regulatory system that determines the registration and re-registration of these and all pesticides. This time-tested, science-backed approach continually vets and approves the uses and labeling of active ingredients.

Our role as educator

We are a staunch advocate for and educator on proper pesticide use. Our website, for example, is focused on helping homeowners and other stakeholders understand our product development cycle, the ingredients we use and the legal requirements that must be met to bring a product to the marketplace.

We have worked continuously to upgrade pesticide packaging and instructions to improve the user experience with simple application methods and clear directions for use. For example, we’ve incorporated diagrams and images on our product labels to demonstrate proper product application, visually describing how and where to use a product.

We have long been in support of pesticide product labels that can be clearly understood and provide critical information related to product handling, safety, safe use and storage.  We do so because the opportunity to communicate with consumers who use our products is the language that printed on a product label. We take that opportunity to educate consumers on how to properly use the product to be most effective and to have the least off-target impact.

For all our efforts, we understand that pesticide labels can still be confusing to consumers and we share this feedback with the federal regulations that set label requirements. While product labels should reflect federally approved information, we know how important it is for consumers to clearly understand how to follow labeled directions and warnings, and it is our responsibility to facilitate that understanding. We have proposed to federal regulators the benefits of allowing changes to label language that would be more consistent with typical, recognizable consumer product imagery to make it easier for consumers to understand and lessen the potential for misuse. We remain committed to the goal of supporting our consumers with a more common sense approach.

We also provide proper-use instructions on our product websites and through our product help desk, which includes an online interactive chat function to increase ease of consumer contact.

Our nonprofit partners have also helped us shape our consumer outreach efforts to increase awareness about the responsible use of pest control products, including how and where to apply, proper dosages and other guidance.

Our role as educator extends to our work with state and federal lobbying consultants and our consistent, sustaining support to a 501(c)4, The Good Growth Alliance, to advance policy and educational efforts related to a variety of issues that impact society, our business and our customers and consumers.

Our innovations

Pesticide formulations cannot be the only approach to addressing pests, and we are committed to developing innovative new products that help gardeners safely and effectively control pests.

For example, our scientists are working to develop new breeds of turf grass. This turf is designed to provide a denser turf that will help to naturally crowd out weeds, thus requiring fewer pesticides to control them.

Another top priority for our team is to make it easier for consumers to apply the right amount of our products to the right locations. This has led to numerous innovations in our applicator technologies, which we continue to evaluate and modify based on actual consumer use research.

For our pest control products, we have introduced the following:

  • Ready-to-use formulations requiring no mixing, which reduce unnecessary human contact and the possibility of over-application
  • Handheld wands with built-in sprayers that bring products closer to their intended targets for best application and to minimize any accidental product drift
  • Hose-end spray applicators that efficiently cover large and hard-to-reach areas
  • A range of highly accurate spreaders, including EdgeGuard®, designed to prevent fertilizers and pesticides from being applied onto sidewalks and driveways, making it much less likely to run off into local water supplies

Our continuing commitment

If there is one constant in our more than 150-year history, it is the fact that we are never satisfied with yesterday’s results. We continuously invest in scientific research and development to improve the effectiveness and safety of all of our products, including those with pesticides. We do this out of respect for the gardener and the environment and because of our commitment as an industry leader and effective product steward.