Organic Doesn't Mean No Pesticides
Organic Doesn’t Mean No Pesticides
Contrary to common belief, you might be eating pesticides, even when buying organically-grown food. When buying organic, consumers expect it to be food grown the natural way: no pesticides, natural or man-made. Because of this, the organic label can be deceiving, as organically produced fruits and vegetables aren’t necessarily guaranteed to be pesticide-free. Some well-known examples of organic pesticides include spinosad, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), and neem oil. So if you really want to know what’s going into your food, you should go to a farmers’ market because it’s easier to check for pesticide use.
Although pesticides used in organic farming and gardening are less likely to be harmful to people, they can still be slightly toxic. Instead of using artificially-made chemicals found in synthetic pesticides, organic pesticides are often forced to use extracts from potent natural sources. Some examples include pyrethrin, which is derived from chrysanthemums, and neem oil, an oil pressed from the fruits and seeds of the neem tree. These extracts are both considered slightly toxic, and in a report of neem oil poisoning in an elderly male, can induce “vomiting, seizures, metabolic acidosis, and toxic encephalopathy.” In addition, in the USDA’s yearly roundup of pesticides on foods, it found that 18 percent of organic lettuce contained an organic pesticide called spinosad.
Most pesticides are non-specific, meaning that in addition to killing the targeted species of insect, they will also kill non-target species. Farmers use organic pesticides to kill bad insects, and while in general, they are safer for your health and the environment than synthetic pesticides, they will also sometimes kill non-target species of insects, such as honeybees and ladybugs, which are both beneficial insects. Also, since organic pesticides are typically weaker than most synthetics, they have to be sprayed in higher concentrations to be effective.
Knowing all this, how can you guarantee that the food you’re eating is pesticide-free? It’s difficult to find out how it was grown, or unclear just by looking at it. What’s worse, the employees at your store may not even know where it came from, or how it was grown. The answer to all of these questions is probably simpler than you think: the farmers’ market. At a farmers’ market, most, if not all of the food is grown near you. It’s also easy to find out how the food was grown -- just ask the farmer who grew it! This way you can find farmers who don’t use pesticides, or only use strictly non-toxic, safe pesticides when growing.
Some people might think that farmers may need to use pesticides in some cases, if there has been a significant pest or disease outbreak. Others might say that although organic pesticides can be slightly toxic to people, in the hands of responsible farmers, there is little to no chance of them affecting you adversely in any way. Both these arguments are valid, but with careful analysis and reaction, farmers can prevent any pests or diseases from becoming too prevalent, and even in the hands of responsible farmers, there is still a chance that you could be affected by these pesticides. People should have the right to know what pesticides are used in their food, and that the organic label allows for the use of pesticides.
When you purchase food from farmers’ markets, you can make sure you aren’t harming insects, eating something that could be slightly toxic, supporting local farmers, or just buying something grown the natural way. If you don’t have a farmers’ market nearby, it’s a good idea to try growing your own food, which is arguably the best option. That way you’ll be in control of all the inputs, and can make sure there are no added pesticides and that it’s grown the way you like.