Since the birth of the modern environmental movement, people have been pushing for more accountability on behalf of Mother Earth. From reducing emissions to changing business practice to accommodate less waste, people now favor companies who go above and beyond to protest public health and longevity.
A major push for this has been seen in agriculture, where many consumers now popularly support “organic” produce. Organic, in the sense of the USDA certification, refers to growing practices without the use of synthetic pesticides, artificial fertilizers, or genetically modified seeds. This greatly reduces negative impacts of farming – enriching rather than depleting soil, reducing runoff, and supporting a robust, natural ecosystem rather than one of very specific nutrient levels and life forms.
What many people don’t realize is that “organic” does not mean that there no pesticides or fertilizers used. In fact, organic farming can be heavily entrenched in this practice, albeit natural in its approach. At it’s root, organic means “an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity…based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.” To achieve this, as mentioned, synthetic pesticides, artificial fertilizers, and GMOs are restricted. But that doesn’t mean everything is.
Organic vs. Synthetic Pesticides: What are they?
Organic or synthetic, a “pesticide” will always remain the same: something used to kill pests, be they insects, weeds, fungi, or anything else. Synthetic pesticides, for example, include Organochlorines, Organophosphates, Carbamates, and Pyrethroids – each of which targets certain ‘features’ of the pest, be it its central nervous system, reproductive system, and/or immune system. Organic pesticides, on the other hand, include rotenone, neem oil, pyrethrum, and a slew of other botanical pesticides produced by living organisms.
So what’s the difference? Largely, it’s the manufacturer – man, on one hand, and Mother Earth on the other.
In reality, even organic pesticides are “toxic” and environmentally destructive, albeit at a much lower level is the vast majority of cases. For this reason, some people argue that the label “organic” is really just a feel good measure when shopping. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
The Benefit of Organic
Despite both synthetic and organic pesticides being toxic and environmentally destructive, organic pesticides are much better equipped to simultaneously support a healthy (or, healthier) ecosystem. As mentioned above, for these pesticides to be even used in organic farming, they must “restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.”
What’s more, when speaking of synthetic pesticides, there are three possible types of harmful effects: acute effects, delayed effects, and allergic effects. Acute occur immediately after exposure, delayed occur long after the exposure (such as cancer), and allergic lead to harmful effects, but are not developed by all people. The chance of any effect is not surprising: synthetic pesticides are known to be extremely deadly to all living creatures in excess, which is why farmers in India facing crop failure and debt drink insecticides when committing suicide.
Here’s the bottom line: while organic produce may use pesticides, they are much less toxic, much more natural, and much better for you and the planet. This is just one reason organic farming, namely when performed in a fully holistic, intensive fashion, is a much better investment for our future.