Misconceptions About Agriculture: Pesticides are Not Used In Organic Foods

They way that food is produced is both very important and crucial to consumers simply because most if not all of us are concerned about what goes into our bodies. Though we are for the most part well informed when it comes this subject in terms of agriculture, many consumers have an issue with the use of pesticides in their food. Since the use of pesticides is wide spread in the world of agriculture, many turn to organic food options in order to avoid the risk of consuming pesticides, since of course no pesticides are used in the production of organic foods right? Wrong. It turns out that contrary to popular belief, pesticides are in fact used in the production of organic foods.

First off lets take a step back and talk about what exactly a pesticide is and what constitutes a pesticide, as well as why farmers use them in the production of their crops. By definition a pesticide is “a substance used for destroying insects or other organisms harmful to cultivated plants or to animals.” (www.dictionary.com, 2014) These pesticides can also be broken down into separate categories such as insecticides, killing several species of insect, fungicides, killing species of fungi that harm specific crops, etc. With this in mind we take a look at why farmers use these potentially harmful pesticides. The reason for this use of pesticides is actually to protect the crops themselves, by the use of pesticides many crops in each harvest are save due to the extermination of harmful insects, fungi, etc. that can potentially kill the crops. Since these pesticides sound so extreme, it is also important to question just how safe these things are, the answer to that question may perhaps be unsettling. Pesticides can cause some rather severe health problems, “Laboratory studies show that pesticides can cause health problems, such as birth defects, nerve damage, cancer, and other effects that might occur over a long period of time. However, these effects depend on how toxic the pesticide is and how much of it is consumed.” (www.epa.gov, 2014) This of course is not good at all and makes you question the use of pesticides, though this is true these pesticides prevent many other harmful bacteria from infecting the crops.

Finally we return back to the issue of pesticide use in the production of organic foods, particularly crops. As stated before pesticides are in fact used in organic farming, though there is a slight difference. That difference is stated here in this quote, “organic farmers do use pesticides. The only difference is that they’re “natural” instead of “synthetic.” At face value, the labels make it sound like the products they describe are worlds apart, but they aren’t. A pesticide, whether it’s natural or not, is a chemical with the purpose of killing insects (or warding off animals, or destroying weeds, or mitigating any other kind of pest, as our watchful commenters have correctly pointed out). Sadly, however, “natural” pesticides aren’t as effective, so organic farmers actually end up using more of them!” (www.realscience.com, 2014) So in principle, organic farmers actually end up using more pesticides then normal farmers, just using a different pesticide. So there you have it, another common misconception in the field of agriculture, debunked.

Sources: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/food/risks.htm

http://www.realclearscience.com/blog/2014/06/the_biggest_myth_about_organic_farming.html

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/science-sushi/2011/07/18/mythbusting-101-organic-farming-conventional-agriculture/

http://www.azfb.org/articles/78798/the-myths-and-facts-in-agriculture

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