Is Your Christmas Tree Filled With Pesticides?


It’s time for those who celebrate Christmas to start picking out their trees. But before grabbing any old tree, be warned that some trees have pesticides in them. If that’s not a concern, then buy a tree from any old place. But if you’d like to go green (pretty much literally in this case) then there are a number of organic alternatives available:

NY Times: If the tree is certified organic by the Department of Agriculture. Or if it is a Certified Naturally Grown tree, which meets the same basic requirements: it was raised without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, using sustainable methods like composting and erosion control.

Certified Naturally Grown, a national organisation with 500 members from 47 states, was founded in 2002 (the same year as the Agriculture Department’s organic certification program) by small farmers looking for an alternative that didn’t require a licensing fee and complicated record-keeping. State groups like the Farmer’s Pledge, sponsored by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, can also provide assurances that a tree has been grown sustainably.

You can also find many tree farms from local growers too, but if you can’t find an organic tree there isn’t too much to be worried about. Probably.

Large growers like Cline Church, in Fleetwood, N.C., who ships about 60,000 Fraser firs a year up and down the East Coast and into the Midwest, dismiss the idea that there could be enough leftover pesticide on trees to pose a significant health risk. “As far as residue on these trees,” Mr. Church said, “there’s nothing that’s been found, to my knowledge.”

He added: “We use them according to the label, and what the E.P.A. tells us. What else have we got to go on?”

Whatever the risk, the good news is that pesticide use has been cut in half over the last 10 years, said Jill Pennington, a plant pathologist and forestry specialist at North Carolina State University, who surveyed 336 growers in western North Carolina in 2001 and 352 in 2007, and compared those figures with a 1995 survey of 294 growers in the same region by Steve Toth, a pesticide specialist at the university.