Pesticide-free Food? Forget It!

059 fruit @PikeMarSea LAH

(This first appeared on my other blog, Mountain Plover.)

I was at the market picking out some grapes when a large woman ran up to me and grabbed my arm. “Don’t buy those!” She looked alarmed. “They’re not organic!”

Thankfully, I’m rarely accosted in the produce department , but I frequently hear the same lecture from many of my friends. Don’t take man-made drugs. Don’t use artificial sweeteners. Don’t eat food that isn’t organic. You’re poisoning yourself. Natural is safe. Everything else isn’t.

I should point out that I have no desire to poison myself with dangerous chemicals, but our concern about the difference between “natural” and “manmade” chemicals is irrelevant. Both laboratories and nature produce those that are safe and others that are not-so-safe. Arsenic is natural. Vitamin C can be replicated in a laboratory.

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Organic Pesticides

(This is the next post in my “Organic” series. If you missed the first one, you can find it here.)

It may surprise you to learn that organic farmers use pesticides. The only difference is that, for the most part, their pesticides must derive from natural sources rather than a laboratory. Does this make them safer than synthetic ones?

Consider—copper sulfate, an organic pesticide allowed by the USDA, is more toxic than some synthetic pesticides; an overdose can cause anemia, liver disease, mutations and cancer. Arsenic is a natural substance, but is so toxic that it is banned by the USDA for use on organic crops. Nicotine-derived pesticides, another group of natural chemicals, are also considered too dangerous for use by organic farmers.

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