Pesticides in Organic Farming
Subject: Pesticides in Organic Farming
From: lhom@OCF.Berkeley.EDU (Louis Hom)
Date: 7 May 1994 15:33:16 GMT
Article: 8446 of misc.health.alternative
Organization: U.C. Berkeley Open Computing Facility
**I apologize in andvance if this is inappropriately posted here, but it seems
that many alternative health-ers seek to escape pesticides by buying organic
and might be interested in this**
Organic produce has become increasingly popular in recent years, as consumers have grown more health conscious and environmentally aware. Many stores and supermarkets now have large sections devoted to organic fruits and vegetables.
WHAT MAKES PRODUCE "ORGANIC"?
Contrary to what most people believe, "organic" does *not* automatically mean "pesticide-free" or "chemical-free". In fact, under the laws of most states, organic farmers are allowed to use a wide variety of chemical sprays and powders on their crops.
So what *does* organic mean? It means that these pesticides, if used, must be derived from natural sources, not synthetically manufactured. Also, these pesticides must be applied using equipment that has not been used to apply any synthetic materials for the past three years, and the land being planted cannot have been treated with synthetic materials for that period either.
Most organic farmers (and even some conventional farmers, too) employ mechanicaland cultural tools to help control pests. These include insect traps, careful crop selection (there are a growing number of disease-resistant varieties), and biological controls (such as predator insects and beneficial microorganisms).
ORGANIC PRODUCE AND PERSONAL HEALTH
When you test synthetic chemicals for their ability to cause cancer, you find that about half of them are carcinogenic.
Until recently, nobody bothered to look at natural chemicals (such as organic pesticides), because it was assumed that they posed little risk. But when the studies were done, the results were somewhat shocking: you find that about halfof the natural chemicals studied are carcinogenic as well.
This is a case where everyone (consumers, farmers, researchers) made the same, dangerous mistake. We assumed that "natural" chemicals were automatically better and safer than synthetic materials, and we were wrong. It's important that we be more prudent in our acceptance of "natural" as being innocuous and harmless.
ORGANIC PESTICIDES VERSUS SYNTHETIC PESTICIDES
Clearly, the less we impact our environment, the better off we all are. Organicfarming practices have greatly advanced the use of non-chemical means to controlpests, as mentioned earlier.
Unfortunately, these non-chemical methods do not always provide enough protection, and it's necessary to use chemical pesticides. How do organic pesticides compare with conventional pesticides?
A recent study compared the effectiveness of a rotenone-pyrethrin mixture versusa synthetic pesticide, imidan. Rotenone and pyrethrin are two common organic pesticides; imidan is considered a "soft" synthetic pesticide (i.e., designed to have a brief lifetime after application, and other traits that minimize unwanted effects). It was found that up to 7 applications of the rotenone- pyrethrin mixture were required to obtain the level of protection provided by 2 applications of imidan.
It seems unlikely that 7 applications of rotenone and pyrethrin are really better for the environment than 2 applications of imidan, especially when rotenone is extremely toxic to fish and other aquatic life.
It should be noted, however, that we don't know for certain which system is moreharmful. This is because we do not look at organic pesticides the same way thatwe look at conventional pesticides. We don't know how long these organic pesticides persist in the environment, or the full extent of their effects. When you look at lists of pesticides allowed in organic agriculture, you find warnings such as, "Use with caution. The toxicological effects of [organic pesticide X] are largely unknow
n," or "Its persistence in the soil is unknown." Again, researchers haven't bothered to study the effects of organic pesticides because it is assumed that "natural" chemicals are automatically safe.
WHY HAVEN'T WE HEARD THIS BEFORE?
For obvious reasons, organic farmers have done little, if anything, to dispel the myth that "organic = chemical/pesticide-free". They would only stand to lose business by making such a disclosure.
Pesticide manufacturers have little concern in the matter. To them, "synthetic pesticides sold" and "organic pesticides sold" are both "pesticides sold".
As for conventional farmers, they are not really in a position to be critical. It would not be in their interest to draw attention to chemical and pesticide use.
WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS MEAN?
The purpose of this message is not to discourage you from buying organic produce.
It is only meant to let you know what you are or aren't getting when you make such a purchase. Unless you know your grower personally, there is no guarantee that your produce has been grown without pesticides or other chemicals. It's a point to consider, given the substantially higher cost of organic foods.
There are many choices and decisions that we, as consumers, are asked to make. Hopefully, this text has provided some new information that you will find helpful.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Please feel free to distribute this text as you please.
A hard copy of this message in leaflet form (on recycled paper, of course!) is available; just send your snail mail address to: email@example.com
Your comments and questions are welcome.
The study comparing rotenone-pyrethrin and imidan was performed by J. Kovach of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York.
The data describing the carcinogenicity of natural and synthetic compounds are referenced in Gold, L.S., et al. (1992) _Science_ Vol. 258, pp. 261-265.
Many thanks go to the Organic Crop Improvement Association for their cooperation in this study. The OCIA has chapters in AZ, AR, CA, CO, FL, IL, IN,IA, KS, MD, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, NM, NC, ND, OH, PA, SD, UT, and WI. Thanks are also extended to the California Certified Organic Farmers, the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, and Oregon Tilth Certified Organic. (The appropriate information has not yet been obtained from the Natural Organic Farmers Association (NOFA), but it is a
lmost certain that all facts stated here apply to their certified products as well.) The following state Departments of Agriculture have also been very helpful: AL, AK, CA, CO, DE, FL, HI, IA, LA, MD, MI, ND, OK, TN, VA, and WA. States with no laws governing organic products include Alabama, Delaware, Hawaii, and Tennessee.
* Lou Hom * "All folks are family." *
* firstname.lastname@example.org * -- John Saponara *
Article 732 (3 more) in bionet.plants:
From: claird@NeoSoft.com (Cameron Laird)
Subject: [ARCH] Re: Which Came First, Agriculture or Pastorialism? [LONG]
Organization: NeoSoft Communications Services -- (713) 684-5900
Date: Wed, 16 Dec 1992 18:37:40 GMT
In article <BzACz4.7IF@well.sf.ca.us> email@example.com (Dave Chapman) writ
>Can anyone out there tell me what the best current dates are
>for the beginning of agriculture, and for the beginning of
>herding? I have the impression that domestication of sheep
>occurred later than the domestication of grains, but would
>like to see actual references.
>Also, information on the approximate order in which the various
>food animals and food crops were domesticated would be
Domestication is a marvelous subject. That is,
it endlessly fascinates me.
This comes up often enough, by the way, that it
deserves to be in an FAQ.
The cheap answer is to instruct you to look in
recent Scientific Americans; there was, for ex-
ample, a review this fall of the archaeology of
some of the early Eurasian horse pastoralists.
There is much, much more to it than this, though.
Humans have practiced domestication all around the
globe, and throughout the last ten thousand years
or so. Well-attested dog remains have been found
dating back around 10,000 years in Idaho, Britain,
Turkey, ... (what's the archaeology of dingos? Is
there genetic evidence that humans and dogs settled
the New World together 12000 BP?) Plenty of people
believe that hominids and canids go back a lot
farther than that. Cattle are descended from at
least two wild species; this process seems to have
been well underway by 9000 BP. Sheep go back at least
7000 BP. Swine have also been domesticated more than
once during the last 5000 years, probably first in
China. Horses likely entered human society just a bit
later, and almost certainly in Central Asia, although
the date on this one seems to be subject to revision
backwards. My position: these numbers will continue
to be shuffled for some time into the future.
The first hard evidence for plant domestication
also dates from around 9000 BP. Barley, sorghum,
sweet potato (!), rice, common beans, flax, egg-
plant, and maybe maize and avocados (!) have been
well dated before 7000 BP.
A different way to interpret your question: does
a particular people domesticate plants or animals
first? There's a lot of ideology tied up in an-
wering this question; it's probably best for you
to read some of the standard literature. Don't
lose sight of these keys:
1. domestication has happened at many times and
places, and by many people. It continues to
the present (fox; kiwi fruit; cashews; high-
bush blueberry; jojoba; various pines; red
2. it's a rare society which is "isolated".
Most peoples have been connected to a greater
or lesser extent to the world economy, at
least for the last 6000 years;
3. domestication isn't irreversible. Elk
("moose" to North Americans) and stinging
nettles once were kept by some northern
Europeans, and a number of ungulates by
southwestern Asians; no more.
I like thinking about some of the marginal cases:
mesoamerican turkeys, New World rodents and camelids,
and the cervidae. For a well-contextualized discussion
of a hunter-herder transition, look at
1980 Hunters, pastoralists, and ranchers:
reindeer economies and their transform-
ations. Cambridge University Press,
Most of the controversy in this field has to do with
the "scientific materialism" of archaeology; antagonists
become quite heated over such questions as whether it is
"winners" or "losers" that have innovated in agricultural
technique, and whether horticultural surplus antedates
political hierarchy, and whether social infrastructure
requires, or is required by, agriculture. You can start
on some of these questions yourself in
Reed, Charles A., editor
1977 Origins of agriculture. Mouton,
The classic that everyone criticizes is
1965 The conditions of agricultural growth:
the economics of agrarian change under
population pressure. Aldine Publishing
Company, New York
For other views, try
Ammerman, Albert J., and L. L. Cavalli-Sforza
1984 The neolithic transition and the genetics
of populations in Europe.
Clark, J. Desmond, and Steven A. Brandt
1984 From hunters to farmers: the causes and
consequences of food production in Africa.
University of California Press, Berkeley
Cohen, Mark Nathan, and George J. Armelagos
1984 Paleopathology at the origins of agriculture.
Proceedings of the 1982 Conference on Paleopath-
ology and Socioeconomic Change at the Origins
of Agriculture. Academic Press, New York
Cowan, C. Wesley, and Patty Jo Watson, with the
assistance of Nancy L. Benco
1992 The Origins of agriculture: an international
perspective. Smithsonian Institution Press,
Centro linceo interdisciplinare di scienze mate-
matiche e loro applicazioni
1986 The Origin and domestication of cultivated
plants: symposium. Elsevier, New York
Dolukhanov, Pavel Markovich.
1979 Ecology and economy in neolithic Eastern
Europe. Duckworth, London
Flannery, Kent V.
1986 Guila Naquitz: archaic foraging and early
agriculture in Oaxaca, Mexico. Academic
Harlan, Jack R., Jan M. J. de Wet, and Ann B. L. Stemler
1976 Origins of African plant domestication. Mouton,
Higgs, Eric, editor
1976 Origine de l'elevage et de la domestication.
Centre national de la recherche scientifique,
MacNeish, Richard S.
1992 The origins of agriculture and settled life.
University of Oklahoma Press, Norman
1984 The origins of agriculture: an evolutionary
perspective. Academic Press, Orlando
Sauer, Carl Ortwin
1969 Agricultural origins and dispersals; the
domestication of animals and foodstuffs.
M.I.T. Press, Cambridge
Smith, Philip Edward Lake.
1976 Food production and its consequences.
Cummings Publishing Company, Menlo Park
Zeven, A. C., and P. M. Zhukovsky
1975 Dictionary of cultivated plants and their
centres of diversity excluding ornamentals,
forest trees, and lower plants. Centre for
Agricultural Publishing and Documentation,
Zvelebil, Marek, editor
1986 Hunters in transition: Mesolithic societies
of temperate Eurasia and their transition to
farming. Cambridge University Press, Cam-
claird@Neosoft.com (claird%Neosoft.firstname.lastname@example.org) +1 713 267 7966
email@example.com (firstname.lastname@example.org) +1 713 996 8546
End of article 732 (of 732)--what next? [npq] Article 5600 of misc.rural:
Subject: Planter/Seeder recommendations wanted
From: email@example.com (Peter Boldt)
Date: 9 Jun 93 12:36:16 EST
Organization: Allen-Bradley Company, Inc.
Does anyone own/use a planter. I have an Earthway, but it has some
drawbacks. Namely, it does NOT handle round seed very well, as it gets
caught behind the seed plate.
So, my question is "DO you have any experience with a STANHY, NIBEX, COLE,
or any other hand or small tracter type planter?"
It seems that a vacum planter is the way to go, do you agree?
Is it best to buy a STANHAY or NIBEX vacum seeder, or to try an put something
together using a International Havester ( or some other mainstream agricultural
planter ) vacum unit and openers?
thanks for sharing any info you have,