Misconception Number 6: Some natural pesticides used in organic farming have been proven to have harmful effects on health. For instance, Pyrethrin sprayed on organic fruits is highly toxic and Rotenone, another natural pesticide, is a potent neurotoxin long used to kill fish and recently linked to Parkinsonís disease. So there is no reason to trust that organic products are safer.
Summary of Counter-Arguments:
Details of Counter-Arguments:
It is true that natural pesticides used in Organic Agriculture can also have a certain level of toxicity. For instance, the plant-extracted Rotenone is known to be toxic to humans and other mammals in addition to being lethal to insects  However, most natural pesticides have a very small persistence in the environment and are, therefore, unlikely to be leave residues in food. Rotenone, for instance, breaks down when exposed to sunlight and has a short lifespan (a week or less) in the environment. The botanical pest controls (among which are Rotenone and Pyrethrum) are derived from plants. These materials are registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and have undergone safety testing which placed them in the EPAís least toxic category. Botanicals are preferred in organic production to synthetic pesticides because they break down quickly into common natural compounds, while synthetic substances tend to persist in the environment. An important measure of the safety of these plant-derived materials is their known effects based on historical use for the last 3,000 years.
Most importantly, Organic Agriculture relies first on preventive measures and only secondly on natural pesticides to control pests and diseases in crop production. Organic farming relies on prevention rather than cure, and the primary form of pest control is through following cultural methods and best practices. Organic standards are based on the principle that design and management of the whole farming system to achieve health, vitality, and diversity of soil, crops, and the environment are the primary means to ensure that pest and disease problems are minimized. The incidence of pest and disease damage in organic systems is reduced using a number of fundamental practices including use of sustainable crop rotations, maintenance of biodiversity, maintenance of optimum crop health, and the use of resistant varieties. Organic growers are also encouraged to explore the use of biological control agents (predators or parasites of pests which are released into the crop area) instead of natural pesticides for insect problems. All these techniques reduce the need for organic farmers to use natural pesticides (for instance Rotenone was used by only eight Soil Association-certified organic farmers in 2005 in the UK). When there is a real pest outbreak despite these preventive measures, organic farmers resort to use of natural pesticides (after permission from their certification body), but do so with caution in order to disturb the natural equilibrium as little as possible.
Nevertheless, the organic sector does not pretend to be the holder of immutable truths. New studies can bring interesting data on the effect of natural pesticides and the organic sector is responsive to such information, open to debating the issues, and will consider putting additional restrictions on the use of the substances if necessary, and may even ban the substances if it is proven that their use in agriculture has a significant adverse effect on health. For instance, the NOSB (National Organic Standards Board) of the US recommends that all agricultural inputs be evaluated as to their long term effect on the environment, not simply on whether they are synthetic or natural. Another example is that in response to a recent study linking Rotenone to Parkinsonís Disease, and as an additional safeguard to operators' health, the UK Soil Association introduced further restrictions on the use of Rotenone.
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