Understanding the way a pesticide label is organized makes it that much easier to use and find the information that is needed. “The Label Is The Law” is a phrase many pesticide applicators are familiar with, but don’t really give thought to what that means. It is essentially a contract between the company that made the product, the EPA, and the user. It means that if you use the product, exactly as specified on the label, the EPA says that “It will not pose an unreasonable risk of harm to people or the environment” and the manufacturer is saying “if you use it like we suggest, it will work”. Now it is up to the end user to hold up their part of the bargain and use the product properly.
A helpful way to think about the organization on a label is to think “If someone just hands me a random jug, what might my first question be?”. For me that question is “What the heck is this?” The first part of a label explains exactly that. It tells you not only what it is, but quickly gives you important information about what that means.
The first thing that might be at the top is the statement “restricted use pesticide” (RUP) which means that to use or purchase that product you must have a certified pesticide applicators license. If that statement isn’t at the top then the product is considered a “general use pesticide” GUP, and is available for use or purchase by anybody.
Next is usually the Brand or Trade Name, this is a name many people might recognize, (for our sample label Blamo) but it is not always the best way to learn more about a product. Many assume that all Roundup has glyphosate, but that is not the case, there are Roundup formulations that have no glyphosate. A brand name is used by the company to market and sell their product, but is not always useful for knowing what is inside that container.
To better understand what pesticide is in the container you need the Common Name, which can be found in the active ingredient section of the label. This will tell you about the chemical portion of the pesticide that works to manage the pest in question…the active ingredient is the ACTIVE part of the pesticide. Trimethyldeathallzazene is the fictitious active ingredient in Blamo. A company can name a product anything they want, but the active/common name won’t change.
All pesticides that are registered also must have an EPA registration number, which tells you what it is and who makes it, as well as an EPA establishment number, which tell you who makes it and where they make it. These numbers MUST be on a pesticide, if you don’t see them you are buying something illegal or NOT a pesticide. Additionally these numbers can be helpful for reference with any recalls or performance issues.
Knowing exactly what a pesticide is and how to find that information is the first step to properly using a pesticide. In our case lets say I handed you a jug called Blamo, which has 90% trimethylydeathallzazene…what is your next question? Check in next week to see what is next.