Scotts Miracle-Gro Subsidiary Files First EPA Applications for Cannabis Pesticides
By David Heldreth
General Hydroponics’ newest line of products may not be available for purchase, but they’re already making history.
General Hydroponics, a Scotts Miracle-Gro subsidiary, and several states filed the first-ever applications to register pesticide use on cannabis with the Environmental Protection Agency earlier this month, according to an EPA spokesperson. The EPA doesn’t directly approve pesticides on cannabis due to the legal status of the plant. However, the agency works with state agricultural departments for unique crop and pest issues under what’s commonly known as Special Local Needs (SLN) registrations. General Hydroponics submitted SLN registrations for four pesticides to be used on cannabis in Vermont and Washington on April 4, 2017, and for Nevada on April 5, 2017. The EPA has 90 days from submission to approve, deny or seek clarification on the applications.
The pending approvals in Washington, Vermont and Nevada may intrigue cannabis growers in those states; unfortunately, three of the four products don’t appear to be available for purchase yet. Calls and e-mails to General Hydroponics regarding the product line were not returned. Scotts Miracle-Gro’s Public Affairs Director, Molly Jennings, said the company declined to be interviewed regarding the subject.
Cannabis Horticultural Association President Russell Pace said he could see two sides to Scotts’ involvement in the cannabis industry. He said the company has a long history with heavy chemical use, including a partnership with Monsanto for Roundup; but Pace hopes the company takes a different path with cannabis.
“Our feeling is that Scotts’ involvement in the industry was inevitable,” Pace said. “Someone with big dollars had to break through to get cannabis on the labels. So, in that sense, they are making positive advancements for the acceptance of the plant as far as the general public is concerned. We are pleased that they seem to be taking somewhat of a proactive approach in promoting organic management.”
Alex Blomgren, head grower for Washington I-502 producer Green Chief, said most of the industry skews toward craft brands.
“I totally understand the movement into the industry, but it’s like any business: The smaller batch companies are better,” Blomgren said. “If you buy products from the Walmart you get what you pay for.”
The four pesticides that General Hydroponics submitted for approval are: Azamax, Prevasyn, Defguard and Exile.
Azamax an insecticide, miticide and nematicide is the only one of the four currently available for sale. Azamax’s active ingredient is azadirachtin—an extract from the neem tree that is commonly used in organic agriculture. All four pesticides General Hydroponics filed for registration are organically-based products, and all except Prevasyn have already received certification from the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI).
Defguard contains a unique strain of a bacterium—bacillus amyloliquefaciens—that is active against a variety of fungal and bacterial plant ailments. This includes powdery mildew—a disease that costs the industry millions of dollars in lost harvests every year.
Exile, a potassium salt product, is also labeled for use against powdery mildew, but can also control mites and other insects.
Prevasyn is a mixture of garlic, soybean and capsaicin extracts used for the control of insects.
The EPA issued guidance for SLN registration on cannabis, which prioritized pesticides to be registered for use on food, tobacco and under similar cultivation methods as cannabis, in response to a letter from the Colorado Department of Agriculture in 2015. Each of General Hydroponics pending pesticides has directions for greenhouse use and all but Azamax are labeled for tobacco.
General Hydroponics has also submitted applications for cannabis SLN to the California, Colorado and Oregon departments of agriculture, but they have yet to be approved at the state level. Charlotte Fadipe, the Assistant Director of the California Department of Pesticide Regulation, said the state expected to decide on the applications soon.
Despite the natural aspect of these products, some states still have questions for General Hydroponics. Rose Kachadoorian, Pesticide Registration & Certification Leader with the Oregon Department of Agriculture, said ODA asked General Hydroponics for data on the use of the active ingredients from their pesticides on cannabis, but the company couldn’t provide any. Kachadoorian explained that her agency would accept such data from use on hemp, cannabis without tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or that grown in Canada or the European Union.
Kachadoorian said cannabis presents many unique problems in terms of pesticide regulation. The sheer volume of ways the plant is used—from vaporizers to lotions and medicines for immunosuppressed patients—creates difficulties in determining the levels of exposure from pesticides used. Extractions to concentrate cannabinoids can also concentrate pesticide residues—a danger Kachadoorian believes may be underappreciated.
Scotts has bulldozed into the cannabis industry with the purchases of Aerogrow, a hydroponics company; Gravita, a hydroponics light supplier; Botanicare and General Hydroponics, both suppliers of nutrients and fertilizers in the last two years. CEO Jim Hagedorn has openly expressed his desire to become the top brand in cannabis agriculture, and federal pesticide regulation is a big step in the right direction. General Hydroponics and Scotts have come a long way, but it looks like they still have many questions left to answer as they work their way through the agricultural and legal maze around cannabis in the United States.