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Orgainc gardening is NOT pesticide free!!!

October 18, 2007

It maddens me to no end when I see shows ('Martha Stewart", "Get Fresh W/Sarah Snow", "Living Fresh", etc.-good shows by the way but the latter 2 filled w/misinformation) and interviews of people saying "I eat organic because it is pesticide free". Can anyone tell me why this misinformation is being spread? Organic gardening does allow for certain natural "approved" pesticides. I say, "A poison is a poison, whether naturally OR chemically derived"!

Some of the "approved" Organic Pesticides:

Pyrethrins: Although relatively harmless to humans, pyrethrins are very highly toxic to fish and bees and moderately toxic to birds. It kills both beneficial and pest insects.

Ryania: Although it controls fruit and codling moths, corn earworm, European corn borer, and citrus thrips, it is also moderately toxic to humans, fish, and birds. It is very toxic to dogs.

Sabadilla: is a powerful broad-spectrum insect killer. It's especially useful for controlling thrips, aphids, flea beetles, and tarnished plant bugs, but it also kills bees and other beneficial insects, and some people have severe allergic reactions to the chemical.

Rotenone: Rotenone is moderately toxic to most mammals, but is extremely toxic to fish. It's widely used to poison "trash" fish during restocking projects. It has been assigned a CAUTION rating

Your thoughts?



Comments (26)

  • Kimmsr

    If an organic gardener, or farmer, builds up the soil they have into a good, healthy soil they will use far less of any pesticide than someone that does not get that soil into that good, healthy state. As a general rule, however, the pesticdes that organic gardeners, and farmers, do use are less persistant on the foods than the "conventional" pesticdes would be. Ryania, Sabadilla, and Rotenone are no longer acceptable organic pesticdes, however, and pyrethrins have been suggested for use only as a last resort type for many, many years.

  • rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

    hollyhock, are you saying that you're angry because ('organic') pesticides are used period, or that there is such a widespread lack of understanding about what organic gardening or farming or produce is?

  • fruitgirl

    I've found that a lot of people think that organic is pesticide free. I'm not angry, but it is somewhat frustrating. I guess I feel that people should be making informed decisions, and they're not able to do that. The big organic industry is happy to allow people to continue believing that organic food isn't sprayed.

  • gardenlen

    g'day hollyhocks,

    we don't use any man made pesticidal chemicals in our garden, nor do we use any man made chemical fertilisers, so it can be done.

    but if you allude to the organic standard as stipulated by the administrator then yes that produce probably is no better than what comes from conventional farming/gardening if you like.

    regulation has and was always going to reduce the standard, as regulation can only cater to the lowest common denominator, and the parameter to determine organic as set by science is 'if it contains carbon then it is organic' that simple.


    Here is a link that might be useful: len's garden page

  • tclynx

    People are misinformed about alot of things, organic gardening being only one of em. Perhaps the biggest thing in the statement "I eat organic because it is pesticide free" is the fact that what they really mean is Synthetic Chemical pesticide free. Many people are also under the impression that anything advertised as "Natural" is safe. !!!!Hello, most of our traditional deadly poisons are quite natural.!!!!! Most of this is all to do with advertising hype and the organic, green, and natural bandwagon.

    Yes, many organic gardeners do use organic sprays to control pests. Some of these organic sprays have negative sides to them. Most of them are faster to break down than the synthetics. They are less likely to persist on the food or in the environment than the petro chemical types.

    Personally, I try to use the least toxic methods I can. Partly because I want to support as much wildlife as I can and I want non-toxic food, but mostly because I don't want to suit up in protective gear to spray my garden. I also don't want lots of bottles of toxic stuff around my house.

    As to organic food being better nutritionally? Well probably not technically for the most part and if it has to travel a long way to get to you then really not worth it. However, locally grown organic food is likely to be fresher and therefore probably better nutritionally. And if you can pick it from your own garden as you get ready to fix dinner, then you gain much in the "fresh" department.

    As to buying Organic from the grocery store. I go for the organic milk, not because I necessarily think it is really healthier but because I like the taste better. As for the produce, only if it appears to be locally grown stuff, otherwise I can't see spending twice as much for an apple that came half way across the hemisphere. I see locally grown as being about as important as organically grown. Now if I can find local and organic that is definitely worth while.

  • dchall_san_antonio

    Organics seems to be a journey rather than a destination.

    Just because there are pesticides approved for use in organic farming, that doesn't mean you must use them. Hopefully the government will start removing formerly approved materials as other methods and safer materials are discovered/developed.

  • hollyhocks

    Hi Fellow Gardeners,

    Thanks for the responses and for letting me vent. I am by no means against organic gardeners using organic pesticides. Free will and INFORMED decisions is what I'm all about. It's just that 9 out of 10 people who eat organics are not informed and don't know that organic produce is not pesticide free since it is touted as being pesticide free over and over on TV. A large percentage of why people choose organic produce is because it is not only grown chemically free but (they think) it is also pesticide free.

    I think I will do an experiment at our next farmers market next year and ask the public if they think organic produce is pesticide free. I bet 9 out of 10 people will think it is!


  • albert_135   39.17°N 119.76°W 4695ft.

    Quote:people saying "I eat organic because it is pesticide free".

    I have noticed people on TV like to recite things they know nothing about. "I eat organic because it is pesticide free" is a recitation. The statement has nothing to do with organic or pesticides or what the really eat.

  • david52 Zone 6

    Food that has pesticide residues is one thing, and the EPA and FDA set limits on how much of the stuff can still be on the food when its sold. All this stuff is man-made, and I think, nasty.

    The main pesticides used in organic farming are different, for example rotenone and pyrithrins, in that they rapidly break down into things like water and simple sugars, not some half-of-a-di-bi-organocholorophosphatethingie that the EPA regulates as it causes cancer beyond a certain concentration in rat livers or something.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Safe levels of poison in your food

  • lilacs_of_may

    My understanding is that that statement IS true. Saying, "I eat organic because it's pesticide free," is different from saying "I eat organic because it hasn't been sprayed with pesticides." I use organically approved pesticides because they do the job and then break down. So by the time I harvest the tomato or zucchini and put it into my mouth, it IS pesticide free, which means my body is pesticide free (at least from my food). Chemical pesticides stay in the plants, are there when we eat the produce, and then stay in our bodies.

    To my mind, it's a journey. There's no all or nothing. Certainly there are saints who never "sin." They never buy conventional oranges or ever use any kind of pesticides on their garden at all. Most of the rest of us--well, okay, me--are still on that journey toward organic Eden. After a year and a half in this house, I'm still in the process of building up my soil. I still feel the need to spray Spinola sometimes (although I don't spray it on anything that's blooming). Hopefully I'll eventually get to the point where I don't need to use any kind of spray at all, but right now I'm not there yet.

  • pnbrown

    Building up the soil is really something that happens before cropping. When prospective gardeners ask me for advice (usually in May or June!), I tell them about how one should be preparing the new ground in the falltime, not at planting time.

    So once one is embarked on food-production, soil quality regardless, why use any chemicals or poisons? Merely to save a particular crop here and there? It isn't that important - we lose one crop here, another over there does ok. The fact that one didn't have as much time to prepare as would ideally be nice is hardly a reason to not be fully organic or wholistic, IMO. Ideally one would take years to perfectly prep a planting site.

  • tclynx

    Understanding that improving the soil is very important and in the future the improved soil will help grow plants that won't need as much support against pests, but are you saying that in the mean time I should just let the pests desimate the harvest and not spray anything? Some of these pests I'm dealing with will only increase in population if I don't do anything about them. Or are you saying several years should be spent improving the soil before growing anything?

    I suppose my situation is far different from yours in MA since here in zone 9 we get several generations a year of some pests that you might rarely see in late summer. Many of these pests need not worry about overwintering since something is growing year round here.

  • pnbrown

    No doubt it is different (though I have gardened in z9). We do have some serious insect problems here - warm coastal southern new england - and wind-driven from the commercial ag of LI. My experience has been that insect problems and many other viral and fungal problems are fairly plant-specific. So simply letting them go, or sticking with hand-control, doesn't mean losing everything by a long shot.

    I've experienced so many examples examples of this that I couldn't begin to list them all. Just one from this year: my russian kale went into late summer nearly unscathed by imported cabbage moth (first time!), only to be practically destroyed by a monstrous aphid infestation (first time that's happened, also). I didn't do anything about it, some plants are nearly dead now, a couple were hardly affected, most are slowly recovering. The inter-planted chard - foliage touching in many cases - was untouched. The aphids were apparently more than happy with the kale. Young broccoli plants were mostly unaffected also. It's a shame that I won't have much tasty kale for late fall, but I've got far more chard than I can eat meanwhile.

    I think it's important not to get too attached to a particular crop - it's not easy, I know! Yeah, I'm saying just let it go, I think it shortens the number of years that you'll have to deal with a certain type of infestation. I also question the much-spoken concept that healthy soil and healthy plants automatically means no pest problems. That hasn't been my experience. Healthy people and animals with healthy diets can get sick (bacterial and viral), plants can to. They can fight it better than weak people on poor diets, and probably that's true of plants also. So I don't think that having insect problems necessarily means that one's soil is seriously impaired. But once they are established in the area the system has to balance itself out. How that happens I'm guessing is complex and depends on a lot of factors that I don't pretend to understand.

  • steve2416

    I am certainly not a farmer and my sustainence is not dependent on my 1/3 acre veggie garden. That said, my family, friends and strangers all seem to enjoy what I raise. Sheet composting, cover crops and mulches are all I have used for the last 23 years. There are some failures but rarely total.
    I enjoy the diversity of bug life and holes in leaves are not an issue. Nor is breaking off a piece of a broccoli head and eating it without washing while standing in the garden. If I accidentally ingest a cabbage worm - oh well - that's just fresh meat without hormones or antibiotics.
    Unless it is a commercial venture, I think we need to relax and enjoy our gardens. My garden is a means of stress relief.

  • pnbrown

    Steve, how's the drought affecting your area? People having trouble with wells or municipal water?

  • byron

    Water FWIW

    A recent Yahoo news article, says that 36 states in the US have a water shortage problem

    Organic Pesticides are not always the safest:

    IE Rotenone is probably the most toxic chemical that you can use in the home garden LD 50 of 162

    BUT most organic pesticides have a 1/2 life of days, not years

    Example DDT, Affected some migrant farm workers as late as 2002, Male children were born with reproductive organs that grow beyond what they were born with, want that? I don't think so. Nothing in organics can duplicate this situ. Nothing in organics can cause the loss of Bald eagles, Nothing in organics can kill 18 species of butterflies, Nothing in organics can polute the water beyond drinking
    Nothing in organics kills 65 million song birds a year. Nothing in organics kills dragonflies

    Take your pick, I would rather have the birds, butterflies and dragonflies

    I was in Indiana a few weeks ago, I traveled past many corn and soybean fields and didn't see one single bird around any of those fields, I saw a lot of birds near those fields in my home state where GMO crops are against the law.

    Something to think about

    Just my 2¢

  • maupin

    I bought my farm from a chemical grower in 1998. The first couple of years were really, really tough for me--many pests and not nearly enough predators. I used Rotenone, hot pepper sprays, lots of other organic pest controls.

    I also built up the soil from a hard clay by adding over 1 ton of compost per acre, inoculated legumes, planted a fall legume cover crop, fertilized with aerated compost tea, built purple martin and bluebird houses, and a big black sunflower seed feeder, in addition to a thistle sock feeder. I also applied milky spore for the terrible jap beetle problem.

    Birds, ladybugs, preying mantis, and countless other predators started moving in. Earthworms--virtually unseen before--could be dug by hand in one scoop. Balance was restoring.

    Now I use none of the organic pest controls--just aerated compost tea and some baking soda mixed in. By feeding the soil instead of the plant my plot recovered from the ravages of chemical abuse.

    So the first couple of years converting from chemical dependency require patience and a commitment to the long term. You will have to use more aggressive organic pest management practices at the beginning. But if you hang in there--it will be worth it. Sure was for me.

  • trubbadubbadoo

    "Can anyone tell me why this misinformation is being spread?"

    Yes, actually several of us can.

    It is called marketing.

    You want to eat 'organically' and pay the prices. Yet you buy pesticides and apply them directly to your dogs. You spray raid on flies. You use pesticides on cock-roaches. But never really think about it.

    'Organic' gardeners do use pesticides. We just try to keep them to the absolute minimum. And we use naturally occurring things whenever possible. If another insect does the job - then fine! If not - then some of us will use pesticides.

    Nicotine is a pesticide - you gonna try to tell me that's not organic?

    Yet billions inhale it everyday.

  • dchall_san_antonio

    maupin said, Now I use none of the organic pest controls--just aerated compost tea and some baking soda mixed in.

    I agree with almost everything you said, but baking soda is a popular chemical fungicide. Why would you use that in compost tea?

  • led_zep_rules

    Organic gardening is pesticide free in my garden. The only chemical I have ever sprayed in my garden is soapy water, and I hardly ever do even that. SInce I cover myself with soapy water all the time I don't consider that a pesticide ever though it can kill pests. Since people are advised to wash their produce before eating it, I think I could claim quite truthfully that my stuff is pesticide free. I have also killed some pests just with water (drowning), but I wouldn't call water a pesticide.

    "As to organic food being better nutritionally? Well probably not technically for the most part" Amazingly enough organic food has been shown to be better nutritionally. Probably relates to the soil being richer in organic material. Antioxidants and vitamins tested were significantly higher in organically grown produce.

    Here are two quotes from one article about it, just Google 'organic vitamin antioxidant higher nutrition' and you will find a slew of articles about all the research and analysis.

    >>The decline in our produce's nutritional value corresponds to the period of increasing industrialization of our farming systems. As we have substituted chemical fertilizers, pesticides and monoculture farming for the natural cycling of nutrients and on-farm biodiversity, we have lessened the nutritional value of our produce. Integrated well-established organic farming systems can counter the decline.

    >>For example, Virginia Worthington, a clinical nutritionist who earned her doctorate in nutrition at Johns Hopkins, published a review in 2001 of 41 studies comparing the nutritional value of organic and conventional produce. After tallying the data across all the studies, Worthington concluded that organic produce had on average 27 percent more vitamin C, 21.1 percent more iron, 29.3 percent more magnesium and 13.6 percent more phosphorous than conventional produce.

    I do agree that locally grown is just as important as organics, though. The amount of fuel spent transporting food around the globe is scary.


    Here is a link that might be useful: article the quote is from

  • softmentor

    pesticide free
    the sun sets
    nobody love me
    two cents worth
    daisy fresh
    common saying, not meant to be precise, but which convey a meaning that is understood
    I, as in me personally, I am the worst pesticide out there. Me and my thumb and fingers. and clearly, my garden is not me free, or free of me. But it is "free" of a lot of things, and that's "worth" something. free = worth ... confused yet?
    ::smiles his jolly smile::

  • compost_hugger_nancy

    True organics are without use of anything but recycled (composted) yard debri and daily monitoring (and squishing).

    I build a compost pile and plant the next year while new "in progress" pile is constructed over what will be next years spot. each year I rotate to the spots. That way every planting section gets a renewal of nutrients in the rotation schedule.


  • softmentor

    Oh, and ask my wife. She'll tell you I can be a real pest!
    ::smiles his jolly smile::

  • compost_hugger_nancy

    watch out you might get between HER finger & thumb! LOL

  • pnbrown

    I wish I could afford the sunny space to compost on next year's garden space. Few have that luxury. But it only saves the labor of moving compost, I think shady spots make better use of compost materials in the long run.

  • jolj

    Why would anyone believe what is on T.V., without two or more other sources.
    We are not a fad, but they are.

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