Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Pesticides are not all bad

  • A pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest. 
  • A pesticide may be a chemical substance, biological agent (such as a virus or bacterium), antimicrobial, disinfectant or device used against any pest. 
  • Pests include insects, plant pathogens, weeds, molluscs, birds, mammals, fish, nematodes (roundworms), and microbes that destroy property, spread disease or are a vector for disease or cause a nuisance. 
  • Although there are benefits to the use of pesticides, there are also drawbacks, such as potential toxicity to humans and other animals. 
  • The US Food and Agriculture Agency has defined the term of pesticide as:
any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying or controlling any pest, including vectors of human or animal disease, unwanted species of plants or animals causing harm during or otherwise interfering with the production, processing, storage, transport or marketing of food, agricultural commodities, wood and wood products or animal feedstuffs, or substances which may be administered to animals for the control of insects, arachnids or other pests in or on their bodies. The term includes substances intended for use as a plant growth regulator, defoliant, desiccant or agent for thining fruit or preventing the premature fall of fruit, and substances applied to crops either before or after harvest to protect the commodity from deterioration during storage and transport.
  • Pesticides have gained a bad press of late, and deserve a rethink. Pesticides are used to control organisms considered harmful. 
  • For example, they are used to kill mosquitoes that can transmit potentially deadly diseases like west nile virus, yellow fever, and malaria. 
  • They can also kill bees, wasps or ants that can cause allergic reactions. 
  • Insecticides can protect animals from illnesses that can be caused by parasites such as fleas.
  • Pesticides can prevent sickness in humans that could be caused by mouldy food or diseased produce. 
  • Herbicides can be used to clear roadside weeds, trees and brush. 
  • They can also kill invasive weeds that may cause environmental damage. 
  • Herbicides are commonly applied in ponds and lakes to control algae and plants such as water grasses that can interfere with activities like swimming and fishing and cause the water to look or smell unpleasant.
  • Uncontrolled pests such as termites and mould can damage structures such as houses.
  • Pesticides are used in grocery stores and food storage facilities to manage rodents and insects that infest food such as grain. 
  • Each use of a pesticide carries some associated risk. Proper pesticide use decreases these associated risks to a level deemed acceptable by pesticide regulatory agencies.
  • Finally, do we use pesticides on our allotment? The answer is "yes, mostly organic, but also non-organic when there is no other option. We would like to be able to grow our food with help from only organic pesticides, and we will continue to look for organic solutions."

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