Organic Uses Pest Control…So Why Is That Any Different Than Mass Agriculture?

by Jodi Koberinski, June 11, 2013

A recent  post by the Organic Council of Ontario linked to an article discussing the health benefits of organic foods.  While there are many arguments on both sides of the organic and health debate, an often cited benefit of organic foods is that they are not exposed to synthetic pesticides and herbicides.

One often heard rebuttal to this argument suggests that because organic agriculture also uses pest control, it cannot claim to be healthier for this reason.

As this is often a source of some confusion, I wrote this blog to shine some light on this argument and bring understanding to the organic process

Pest control is used in all agricultural  systems.  In organic production, we don’t allow the use of chemical fertilizer, fungicide, pesticide or herbicides. Some of our crop protection tools are “synthesized” from natural sources – such as BT as a foliar spray. To guide our sector we have developed, and utilize, a permitted substances list, managed by the CGSB, which you can find here . Keeping synthetic pesticides out of organic farming systems reduces the load of agri-toxins in both the food produced for consumption the overall environment.

Are some of the materials we permit toxic in certain doses? Absolutely (copper being the one folks who doubt the value of organic love to raise).  The use of such compounds is however, strictly regulated and requires a transparent audit trail when such management tools being applied.

There are those who will take issue with some of the pest controls we allow or don’t allow under the current system. Organic is a system of continual improvement, and many organic farmers choose to go above and beyond the Organic Standard in regulating the substances they use.

However, the more  important point here is that the focus of organic is not on applying substitutes for chemical management tools that are less benign- rather, organic focuses on soil fertility and health, ecosystem health and working with nature to bring a state of harmony to the farm.

Organic farmers work to establish healthy farm ecosystems so there are no niches for pests to take hold of. Pest control is weighted toward prevention rather than eradication once a problem emerges.

And when problems do emerge, organic farmers reach for a host of pest management tools that meet the strict guidelines and vetting process established through the Permitted Substances List.

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