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mercredi, 03 septembre 2014

ORGANIC PESTICIDES VERSUS SYNTHETIC PESTICIDES

 

 

ARE ORGANIC PESTICIDES AS DANGEROUS

AS SYNTHETIC PESTICIDES?


Claude Gilois

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Mammals: family of vertebrae animals whose female   breastfeeds his little ones but his civilised and cultured branch uses a nanny and a bottle to feed.  Ambrose Bierce.

 

 

This is the claim made by Pierre Yves Morvan, who describes himself as an ‘ eco-sensitive person rather than an eco-dreamer, in an article published in the Mediapart .  It is a subject that, strangely, has drawn little attention so far, but it is a legitimate interrogation as organic farming is now growing especially in Europe. Is organic farming a new paradigm or is it what sustained farming is to conventional farming: a lure.

 

 

Have Synthetic pesticides saved the world from starvation?

In his article, Pierre Yves Morvan firstly argues that pesticides of the chemical industry have put an end to starvation episodes that took place from time to time in the world. It is like claiming that vaccination has put an end to infectious diseases. We know today that it is the improvement in the quality of the water and the habitat as well as sanitation that are mostly responsible for the decrease of these diseases. The vaccination has had a rather marginal role even though it has been helpful at times to contain acute episodes. In fact, all  major starvation episodes in the world (apart from the one in China from 1958-1961 under the ruling of Mao Zedong) predate the use of synthetic pesticides, which started in the 1930’s and took off after the war. Research has shown that it is the establishment of democratic states that is the major cause of the elimination of starvation episodes in the world. The improvement of storage conditions coupled with a better network infrastructures and distributions has played a role, but a marginal one. It is true to say that synthetic pesticides have contributed enormously to the productivity and therefore to the growth of the population but the argument put forward by the chemical industry that without these substances it would now be impossible to feed a 7 billion population is a fallacy. The FOA, the United Nation organisation for food and agriculture, not really a militant and revolutionary organisation openly admits that it would be possible to feed that many people with a traditional agriculture, though its director, Jacques Diouf is still very much in favour of a ‘productivist’ agriculture. 30% of the world population live today from a traditional agriculture (agriculture of subsistence), which contribute to maintaining a high degree of biodiversity. The development of such an agriculture would also appear more suited to feed the 850 000 millions people who currently do not eat enough and cannot afford to purchase food from the food processing industry. 

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Is there an anti-pesticides lobby and what is its weight against the lobby of the pesticides?

 

For a successful lobbying, you have to know the ins and outs of political powers and possess sufficient means, as lobbying is very demanding in terms of time and money. You have to employ advisors who are often known scientists to defend your points of view and it also necessitate press agencies to format your argumentation so that it can be relayed in the best possible way so that the press that will present you point of view in the most favourable way.Only multinational businesses possess such financial powers to afford this luxury.  Organisations defending organic agriculture are very lightweight compared to large transnational firms, but they can be very active.  The process of ‘revolving’ doors by which politicians move from government to industry (and back) provides them with a direct line to the political deciders. 

 

Does organic agriculture use natural toxic pesticides and are they as dangerous for health as synthetic pesticides ?

 

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                                                                   Nature has so much foresight! It grows apple in Normandy knowing                          that the indigenous of the province only drink cider. Monnier

 

Yes, indeed, organic farming uses pesticides. A substance can be toxic whether is it natural or synthetic. Amanita phalloïdes can certainly kill you just a well l as barbiturates. In conventional toxicology, as we have known it so far, effects are related to  dosage. You work out the dose that will kill a chosen subject and dilute the substance down until it has the required effect on the target without harming the human body. However, another conception of toxicology is now emerging in which toxicity is unrelated to the dose and substances can have serious adverse effects even at low concentration. They are called endocrine disruptors. They can be natural or synthetic and that can have negative effects on the human body and on its offspring, as they are transgenerational. Conventional toxicology does not either test the cocktail effects induced by a mixture of chemical substances such as multiple pesticides used. Some substances are CMR (Carcinogenic, Mutagenic or Reprotoxic). Others can modify the epigenetic characteristics and activate or deactivate certain genes   without modifying the nucleotide structure of the DNA. Let us be quite clear, any untoward effect can happen with synthetic or natural toxic substances.

 

However, contrary to conventional farming, organic agriculture uses few pesticides (organic farming is much more than the use of pesticides), about 70 active substances amounting to about 350 commercial preparations which can be divided into 9 major groups and, of course, no synthetic pesticide is allowed. Conventional agriculture has some 6000 products of which 2500 are used regularly. There are some 100 000 commercial pesticides in the world, with some 900 active substances[i]. On top of the active substances in the product, there are a number of solvents, co-formulants, adjuvants that are unknown to the users as covered by a proprietary patent.

There exist more than circumstantial evidence that endocrine disruptors are involved in a large umber of major diseases and metabolic disorders: Hormone dependent cancers (breast, prostate, testicules );infertility; genital malformation of young boys; obesity, autism and neurobehavioral comportments of children. According to two economists, these disorders are costing a very conservative 82 billions pounds (out of the 243 billions) annually on the French health care system[ii]                                                                  

The considerable differential between the numbers of pesticides used in the two agricultures is, in itself, already a good indicator of where the pollution comes from. According to a report of the ‘French Bio’ Association, organic farming represent 4,6% of all land cultivated in France and only 0,9% in the world. It is therefore easy to conclude that the pesticide pollution comes essentially (probably in the order of 99%) from the chemical and agro-chemical industry.

If all these facts and data put things into perspective, it cannot be concluded that the pesticides used in organic farming are without toxicity.

In order to assess the potential toxicity, a detailed survey was carried out from various sources to asses the toxicity of the nine major groups of active substances (it is presented in the annexe of this document) used in organic farming, Two out of the 9 groups survey appear to present major problems. 

Pyrethrins, a group of substances derived from the flower of pyrethrum found in Dalmatia or from various chrysanthemums, are classified as probable CMR (carcinogenic, mutagenic, and repro-toxic). They are also highly toxic on bees and on aquatic environment for fish and invertebrates[iii]. However, their limited persistence and their low leaching capacity limit their toxicity to a low level. 

Copper, is one of the most controversial substances used in organic farming. Only slightly toxic in human, it is non-toxic for mammals and birds. There is no evidence that copper and its salts are CMR or caused any systemic toxicity on animals, which possess a normal metabolism for copper. But it is highly toxic in aquatic environments. The IRNA[iv] is  advocating reducing the use of this product to 8 treatments a year with a dose of no more than 0,5kg/ha, that is 4-kg/ha/per year. There is no substitute for copper in organic farming. It is naturally present in soil s a static substance so it does not contaminate underground water. However it is a potential contaminant of surface water by running off the ground naturally.

Rotenone, suspected to be implicated in Parkinson disease, is no longer authorised in organic farming.  Substances suspected of being endocrine disruptors, lecithin and quassia have also been removed since 2007.

 

How does organic pesticides measure up against synthetic pesticides in terms of toxicity?

They are 143 855 chemical substances registered under the REACH[v] program within the European Union, of which only some 3000 have been tasted albeit only partially.It can be estimated that several hundred will be CMR. Endocrine disruptors are still used in conventional farming. The WHO has registered more than 800 substances as endocrine disruptors. Of course, not all the pesticides used in conventional agriculture are endocrine disruptors, but they constitute one of the 4 major groups.On the opposite, organic farming uses one potential CMR and no endocrine disruptor.  Clearly, organic farming and conventional farming do play in the same division neither quantitatively nor qualitatively when it comes to pesticides. Synthetic pesticides play in the Champion league while organic pesticides compete with the amateurs.

 

And the anti-pesticide lobbying does not weight much against the pesticides lobbying which has managed to block the highly explosive subject of endocrine disruptors for 15 years; Brussels only finally accepted to bring this subject back to the fore recently after Sweden (which threatened to sue the commission), Denmark, Austria, Belgium and France intervened.

 

If pesticides are dangerous, why is life expectancy   increasing and why have farmers generally a better life expectancy?

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Nature  is like fortune. You must not touch it if you want to keep it.Georges Wolinski.

Indeed, life expectancy has progressed in 2002 by 3 months for the men and 2 months for women, but the life expectancy that is currently being measured is the life expectancy for people who are dying now.  They are people who were born before the war and that have lived in very different conditions characterised today by pollution, a marked change in dietary habits and a more sedentary life. Nobody knows what the life expectancy will be for the people that are being born today. If globally the life expectancy progresses in the world, life expectancy in good health marks a halt and even regresses in some counties such as Germany, France and Holland[vi]. Conditions that affect your life are not necessarily those that kill you, argues, Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metric and Evaluation’ at Seattle. Mortality is of course important, but so is morbidity (disease).

Farming professionals have on the whole a better life expectancy even though they are more exposed to pesticide pollution, but the remarks at the beginning of this paragraph apply. The studies on this subject are somewhat controversial at the moment. Farmers smoke less, have more physical activities and have more varied food consumption. A higher proportion of some types of some cancers has however been noted in farmers (skin, kidneys, glands for men and breast an glands for women). However, it is unknown whether this increase has any relation to pesticides.

The conclusion on this controversial subject is probably best left to a farmer reporting to a representative of the French senate studying the effect of pesticides on the farming community.

‘Oh! Yes ..I remember the day I was spraying.. When I came down from the tractor, which was shaking so much… then,  I realised that it was me who was shaking.  Then, I fell flat on my nose and was out for the count. It is my neighbor who scraped me off the ground.

‘ If pesticides were dangerous for health I would know it. I am from a farming family. There has been only three deaths in the family from non-Hodgkin lymphomas.’

‘I do not know anybody ill because of pesticides. No.. No.. There is just the guy who died when he was about fifty at the coop. No, not this one, the other one, the tall one, the one who was working with pesticides.’

The endless pleasures of interacting with nature are not merely for the scientist, but are accessible to all those that accept the influence of the earth, the sea, the sky and their surprising existence. Rachel Carson.

 

Rachel Carson (1907-1964): Zoologist and biologist who spend a great deal of her time to protect the environment and prevent problems caused by synthetic pesticides. She published a book in 1962, Silent Spring, which led to the withdrawal of DDT and well as a number of other dangerous pesticides from the market.

 

 

 

 



                                      

 

  

ANNEXE

 

Molluscicides : an active substance with the ability to kill mollusks in particular slugs and snails. It was  the nightmare of the vets for a very long time  as dogs were very keen to eat   granules when they found a box left unattended. The active substance most used in 2008 was metaldehyde.  Today the only substance used is ferric sulphate which is perhaps not  a formulation as efficient but much  safer and  that will not necessitate the intervention of the vet as an emergency.

 

Pyrethrins : a group of substances derived from  flowers of pyrethrum from Dalmatia or from chrysanthemums . They are composed of chemical substances, which have the ability to attack the nervous system of insects. However they are very quickly degraded by their exposure to light. However they are highly toxic for  bees. They are also highly toxic for fresh water fishes and aquatic invertebrates.  However, their limited persistence and their low leaching capacity limit their toxicity to a low level. They are however classified as potential CMR.

 

Spinosad : discovered by accident, it is a substance that comes from an actinomyces  ( a group of bacteria) from the soil called Saccharopolyspora spinosa. It is used in organic farming as well as in conventional agriculture. It has very little toxicity against mammals  but it is highly toxic on bees. It has a moderate persistence in the soil and has a low leaching potential.

Vegetable   oils, vegetable extracts, essential oils, vegetable essences, oil of colza. Oil of green mint, essential oil of sweet orange.

Non-toxic or of low toxicity.

Mineral oils : Petroleum white oils, Paraffinic mineral oil, Vaseline oil

Of low toxicity for mammals and birds, but highly toxic for aquatic invertebrates. They are quasi insoluble in water which limits their toxicity. They have a relatively long persistence in the soil.

 Sulphur: It is used as fungicide, acaricide and repulsive. It a non-metallic substance. Essential for  living organisms, it enters in the composition of some amino acids (cystéine, méthionine, homocystéine and taurine) which form off the DNA. It is also found in about 20 proteins. It is not toxic. It was recommended 150 before JC against   the codling moth and it is one  of the first insecticide known in occident. One of its derivative, , sulphur dioxide, no longer authorised for food preservation, but still used extensively for the preservation of the wine is problematic as it can induces allergic reaction, some of which can necessitate emergency intervention. It is used in both conventional and organic farming.

 

Copper: One of the most controversial products used in organic farming. Of low toxicity in human, it has no toxicity against mammals and birds. There no evidence that copper and its derivatives have a CMR effect or cause any systemic toxicity in  animals that have a normal metabolic activities of copper. However, it is highly toxic in aquatic environments. The INRA recommends limiting its usage to 8 treatments per year with maximum of 0,5 kg/ha, that is 4 kg/ha/per year. There is no substitute for this product in organic agriculture. It a substance present naturally in the environment. It is persistent but does not penetrate the soil so it does not contaminate underground water but is can undoubtedly contaminate water supplies by leaching.

 

 

Bio-pesticides : They are usually classified in three categories, microbes,  entomogenous (parasites) fungi and viruses. Nematodes are often classified as natural microbial pesticides.

 

      Microbes :

      Bacillus thuringiensis : a group of bacteria able to synthetized toxic crystals effective against Lepidoptera, beetles and Diptera,. It is the most used insecticide in organic farming. Very sensitive to light it gest degraded very quickly.  It persistence on leave is short but longer in soils.  The group of bacteria is currently under studies but it could accumulate in the soil and cause damage to aquatic invertebrates, which are the best measure of the quality of an eco-system. It is also use extensively as a transgenic in Northern and Southern America where most of the studies have been carried out. 

         Fungi :

 

The group of fungi, Lecanicillium muscarium, Beauveria bassiana,  Paecilomyces fumosoroseus , Coniothyrium minitans, Metarhizium anisopliae,  Trichoderma atroviride I1237, Trichoderma harzianum, Ampelomyces quisqualis, have been known for most of them since the 19e century. They are parasite fungi that destroy the organism from in the inside. Trichoderma atroviride I1237 is a highy promising  in grapevine trunk diseases such as eutypiosis and esca. There are no known untowards effects but it is advise not to treat to close  to water sources.

 

          Viruses

 

Cydia pomonella granulosis virus

 

            It acts son organisms by infecting the host cells. There is no known adverse effect.

 

 

Pheromones: They are chemical substances released by most animal species and by some plants. The transmit information that plays a role in sexual attraction. They are not spayed on soil  and they not toxic but they might affect the mix of bio-diversity.  

 

 

[i] http://tpenourriturebio.e-monsite.com/pages/ii-la-perception-du-bio/2-le-bio-au-niveau-de-l-environnement-veritablement-plus-ecologique.html

[ii] Rapport  HEAL  confié à Julia Ferguson (Cranfield School of Management à Bedford, Royaume-Uni) et Alistair Hunt (université de Bath, Royaume-Uni).                              

[iii] http://www.sagepesticides.qc.ca/Recherche/Resultats.aspx?search=matiere&ID=166

[iv] INRA: Institun National de Recherche Agricole

[v] REACH acronyme pour: Enregistrement, évaluation et autorisation des produits chimiques. En anglais : Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and restriction of CHemicals (REACH)

 

[vi] Toxique Planète: le scandale invisible des maladies chroniques. Cicolella André. Anthropocène.

 

 

ANNEXE

 

Molluscicides : an active substance with the ability to kill mollusks in particular slugs and snails. It was  the nightmare of the vets for a very long time  as dogs were very keen to eat   granules when they found a box left unattended. The active substance most used in 2008 was metaldehyde.  Today the only substance used is ferric sulphate which is perhaps not  a formulation as efficient but much  safer and  that will not necessitate the intervention of the vet as an emergency.

 

Pyrethrins : a group of substances derived from  flowers of pyrethrum from Dalmatia or from chrysanthemums . They are composed of chemical substances, which have the ability to attack the nervous system of insects. However they are very quickly degraded by their exposure to light. However they are highly toxic for  bees. They are also highly toxic for fresh water fishes and aquatic invertebrates.  However, their limited persistence and their low leaching capacity limit their toxicity to a low level. They are however classified as potential CMR.

 

Spinosad :discovered by accident, it is a substance that comes from an actinomyces  ( a group of bacteria) from the soil called Saccharopolyspora spinosa. It is used in organic farming as well as in conventional agriculture. It has very little toxicity against mammals  but it is highly toxic on bees. It has a moderate persistence in the soil and has a low leaching potential.

Vegetable   oils, vegetable extracts, essential oils, vegetable essences, oil of colza. Oil of green mint, essential oil of sweet orange.

Non-toxic or of low toxicity.

Mineral oils :Petroleum white oils,Paraffinic mineral oil,Vaseline oil

Of low toxicity for mammals and birds, but highly toxic for aquatic invertebrates. They are quasi insoluble in water which limits their toxicity. They have a relatively long persistence in the soil.

 Sulphur:It is used as fungicide, acaricide and repulsive. It a non-metallic substance. Essential for  living organisms, it enters in the composition of some amino acids (cystéine, méthionine, homocystéine and taurine) which form off the DNA. It is also found in about 20 proteins. It is not toxic. It was recommended 150 before JC against   the codling moth and it is one  of the first insecticide known in occident. One of its derivative, , sulphur dioxide, no longer authorised for food preservation, but still used extensively for the preservation of the wine is problematic as it can induces allergic reaction, some of which can necessitate emergency intervention. It is used in both conventional and organic farming.

 

Copper:One of the most controversial products used in organic farming. Of low toxicity in human, it has no toxicity against mammals and birds. There no evidence that copper and its derivatives have a CMR effect or cause any systemic toxicity in  animals that have a normal metabolic activities of copper. However, it is highly toxic in aquatic environments. The INRA recommends limiting its usage to 8 treatments per year with maximum of 0,5 kg/ha, that is 4 kg/ha/per year. There is no substitute for this product in organic agriculture. It a substance present naturally in the environment. It is persistent but does not penetrate the soil so it does not contaminate underground water but is can undoubtedly contaminate water supplies by leaching.

 

 

Bio-pesticides :They are usually classified in three categories, microbes, entomogenous (parasites) fungi and viruses. Nematodes are often classified as natural microbial pesticides.

 

Microbes :

Bacillus thuringiensis : a group of bacteria able to synthetized toxic crystals effective against Lepidoptera, beetles and Diptera,. It is the most used insecticide in organic farming. Very sensitive to light it gest degraded very quickly.  It persistence on leave is short but longer in soils.  The group of bacteria is currently under studies but it could accumulate in the soil and cause damage to aquatic invertebrates, which are the best measure of the quality of an eco-system. It is also use extensively as a transgenic in Northern and Southern America where most of the studies have been carried out. 

            Fungi :

 

The group of fungi, Lecanicillium muscarium, Beauveria bassiana,  Paecilomyces fumosoroseus , Coniothyrium minitans, Metarhizium anisopliae,  Trichoderma atroviride I1237, Trichoderma harzianum, Ampelomyces quisqualis, have been known for most of them since the 19e century. They are parasite fungi that destroy the organism from in the inside. Trichoderma atroviride I1237 is a highy promising  in grapevine trunk diseases such as eutypiosis and esca. There are no known untowards effects but it is advise not to treat to close  to water sources.

 

            Viruses

 

Cydia pomonella granulosis virus

 

            It acts son organisms by infecting the host cells. There is no known adverse effect.

 

 

Pheromones: They are chemical substances released by most animal species and by some plants. The transmit information that plays a role in sexual attraction. They are not spayed on soil  and they not toxic but they might affect the mix of bio-diversity.   

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