First let’s go over some terminology. What are pesticides and herbicides and are they all bad?
Pesticides are anything that kills anything humans consider to be a pest and that includes insects, mold, and weeds.
Insecticides are a type of pesticide that kill insects specifically.
Herbicides are a type of pesticide that kills only plants like weeds. Weeds are the most significant pest in crop farming because weeds compete for soil nutrients, water and sunlight.
Pesticides and herbicides are used in organic farming because they use substances that kill insects and weeds but in organic farming those substances cannot be toxic to humans. For example, here are some substances “pesticides” that can be used in organic farming – the official document is 85 pages long, link below, so I have only listed a few:
- Microbial organisms – like probiotics for plants
- Diatomaceous earth – ocean sediment that is used to kill insects, it is very small (3 micrometers) and sharp so it kills insects but has no impact on people, very effective non-toxic pesticide
- Botanical pesticides that are derived from plants and minerals and do release toxins
- Lime sulphur – used as fungicide and insecticide
- Biodegradable mulches
- Peroxyacetic acid – controls certain bacteria, is basically vinegar (vinegar is 5% acetic acid)
- Pheromones and plant extracts – for insect control
Sometimes organic food can have some contaminants on it that come from chemical residues that pollute water and soil, so organic food is not 100% perfect but it is the best we have right now. Luckily in Canada we have extremely high standards and regulations and are among the world’s most recognized.
In Canada it is strictly prohibited for any organic food crops or food animals to contain any of the following (substances that are allowed in non-organic farming):
- Toxic and persistent pesticides
- Synthetic fertilizers
- Animal cloning
- Genetic engineering
- Sewage sludge
- Petroleum products
- Sulphuric acid
What do you think? Is it worth it to buy organic food?
Here is a link to the permitted substances used in organic farming in Canada, it lists every substance used for crop nutrition, crop production, and livestock production.