SURPRISE! ORGANIC FARMING CONVERSION INCREASES PESTICIDE USE
Toxic and persistent
February 14, 2001
by Dennis T. Avery
Indianapolis, IN—A new report shows a shift to organic farming methods could increase pesticide use by hundreds of millions of pounds per year. Representing less than one-percent of total agriculture, this research reveals that even a marginal increase of land placed under organic farming methods could result in significant increases in use of persistent and toxic "organic" pesticides such as sulfur, copper and other natural chemicals allowed in organic production.
The "natural" pesticides used by organic farmers are among the most heavily used, toxic, and persistent in American agriculture today, according to a report from Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues. A mandate for organic-only farming would lead to massive increases in pesticide use, soil contamination, and topsoil loss. The result would be a major decrease in the sustainability of American agriculture, the report concludes.
"The myth that organic farming is toxics-free should be buried forever. The American public has been misled through poor reporting and aggressive marketing schemes to believe organic is 'pesticide-free' and safer for human and ecological health," says Alex Avery, the report's author.
The report, "Nature's Toxic Tools: The Organic Myth of Pesticide-Free Farming," concludes that:
* Organic pesticides are the most heavily used pesticides in the United States
* One organic insecticide accounts for more than half of all U.S. insecticide use
* One organic fungicide accounts for more than half of all U.S. fungicide use
* Switching to all organic production would result in up to a 700% increase in U.S. fungicide use
* An all-organic mandate would lead to a massive increase in soil erosion and reduced sustainability
* U.S. regulators have no information at all on the use of most organic pesticides, despite the fact that millions of pounds of these toxic pesticides are used in the United States every year
"At this moment of critical debate about the health and environmental benefits of conventional farming and genetically improved crops, organic farming is being promoted as the ideal alternative. The reality is organic is less understood, untested and potentially riskier for both people and the environment," says Avery.
Dennis T. Avery is based in Churchville, VA, and is director of the Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issues.