Can organic farmers use synthetic pesticides?

Contrary to popular belief, organic agriculture uses pesticides. More than one hundred fertilizers and inputs (pesticides, insecticides or fungicides) are authorized by organic agriculture regulations in Europe and the United States. Malkani adds that organic farming practices are healthier for the environment and animals and tend to enrich soil nutrients rather than deplete them. Most pesticides used in organic agriculture are natural (or non-synthetic), which the USDA defines as substances that have been produced or extracted from a natural source, such as plants or other living organisms.

Spinosad, a “natural organic insecticide”, is another example of a biological pesticide with potentially adverse environmental effects. The approved label language for all pesticide ingredients (active and inert) and all uses of that pesticide must meet the criteria defined in the National Organic Program Rule (NOP) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). A study by the University of Guelph has also shown that, in some cases, the use of “natural” or “organic” pesticides can be more harmful to the environment than the use of synthetic pesticides. This means that the molecules used in organic agriculture must be “natural materials synthesized by ecosystem services”.

Similarly, animal vaccines are important disease prevention tools against many infectious diseases, especially since antibiotic therapy is prohibited in organic livestock. In general, products from organic agriculture are slightly better than conventional agricultural products when it comes to pesticide residues. In the late 1980s, in an effort to standardize production and certification, the organic industry asked Congress to draft the Organic Food Production Act (OFPA) that would define organic. Newer conventional pesticides tend to focus on a very specific process in the plant, which often makes them effective in much smaller doses than organic pesticides.

In fact, many studies, such as that of the French NGO (60 million consumers), found traces of pesticides in organic foods (this specific study found traces in almost all of the 80 products analyzed). In other words, pesticides allowed in organic farming, even if they are of natural origin, can be dangerous. On the contrary, some substances such as strychnine and arsenic are examples of natural toxic substances that are prohibited in organic production. While most modern agricultural techniques focus on the use of synthetic pesticides (a general term that includes herbicides, insecticides and fungicides) on large areas, organic producers of all sizes also use a variety of chemicals to control weeds and insects on their farms.

As a result, higher quantities need to be used to obtain the same result, which can have a negative impact on other organisms or other components of the ecosystem.

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