Experts urge fruit growers to use pesticide alternatives

by Caroline Brown

I should make a blog category called “duh.” Articles with headlines such as this would get filed away there. Not to rant, but sometimes it boggles my mind that corporations make deadly chemicals to apply to OUR FOOD; farmers buy it without question and use it on OUR FOOD; and dumb consumers eat it, again without question.

Anyway, ranting over, the story in the Associated Press this past week discussed advice from the Washington State University Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center to farmers: find another way to control crop pests, besides pesticides are dangerous. (Duh). That’s because people and governments are finally starting to realize how dangerous these pesticides are.

One insecticide under fire is azinphos-methol, or AZM, long employed in apple orchards to eradicate codling moths.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced last month it would phase out use of AZM by 2012.

AZM is in a pesticide category known as an organophosphates.

Organophosphates are among the most commonly used pesticides worldwide, both for agriculture and domestic use. For humans, overexposure can cause acute toxic effects: wheezing, nausea, headaches, seizures and in extreme cases, death.

Farmworker safety groups have been lobbying for the insecticides to be banned, and chemical companies have been working to develop less-toxic alternatives. Some already are on the market, while others are still awaiting approval by the federal government.

Isn’t it funny that AZM is considered toxic to farmworkers who are “overexposed” to it, but it’s OK for us to eat it? Anyway, Washington State University says that farmers should look for “alternative” pesticides since organophosphates like AZM seem to be on their way out the door:

The end is still years out, but agricultural experts say it might not be the last such insecticide to be banned or further restricted, and fruit growers should start researching alternatives now so as not to panic later.

“It’s time to begin _ even if the regulatory environment isn’t forcing it _ using these alternatives to have a better understanding of how they work,” said Jay Brunner, entomologist and director of the Washington State University Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center.

It’s too bad that large scale farmers can’t practice sustainable forms of fruit growing, such as permaculture, that wouldn’t require as many pesticides to begin with!

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.


4 Comments to “Experts urge fruit growers to use pesticide alternatives”

  1. I agree. I know they say that if you wash your produce well, this stuff will be washed away, but that is not true. In some fruits, it is absorbed through the porous skin, and no amount of washing is going to get rid of it, you have to pare away a portion of your food to avoid eating it.

  2. Haha, nice article.

    I saw some stupid thing on Consumer Reports (I think I found it through the blog Slashfood… here is a link ). Basically it’s a guide to buying organic foods. Fair enough, the USDA’s definition is complicated and does not always mean organic. But no, this guide is about finding the best price for organic food. Apples, pears and anything with edible skins are in the “buy these items as often as possible category” while bananas, onions, and for some reason broccoli are in the “buy if price is no object” category.

    Their judgement is just on pesticide levels found in the products in grocery stores. That would be fine, but they’re missing the overall point of organic food (of course). They nailed it with the seafood having no regulations, therefore “organic” shrimp means nothing. And that certain fish have higher contaminants than others. But so what if you don’t eat the skin of a banana, organic methods help the whole system (even if the organic banana production is most likely entirely unsustainable). Organic broccoli is not some unforseeable purchase, in fact most farmer’s market sell reasonably priced organic broccoli. Even better would be a CSA share from an organic farm. Now a bushel of organic vegetables for $18-25 a week, that is a best buy and should be in consumer reports.

  3. This is such a sticky challenge… for years I’ve been thinking to myself, ‘I can’t wait for the day when there’s no such thing as “organic” anymore – because everything will be grown using safe, sustainable methods that currently fall under the fickle/evolving “organic” label.’

    I know that’s just a pipe dream for now, but I agree with you on the “duh” factor. Decisions made that are driven by the values of profit, manageability, yield, and saleability over long distance are very different than decisions made that are driven by maximum health benefits to earth, farmers, wildlife, and consumers (in conjunction with manageability, yield, and saleability over “local” distances – and I know that “local” is a fickle term too).

    I’ll take that shift in conciousness now… anytime folks, just jump in… waiting… waiting… … … 🙂

  4. Reblogged this on Hungry for Fresh Local Organic Safe Sustainable and commented:
    Organophosphates are toxic pesticides, that we must learn to live without. Just a few more blemishes on your fruit, won’t be near as bad as these chemical sprays.

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