As the world’s population grows, there is a fear that the demand for food will outweigh the supply. To address this fear, nations and corporations have made agricultural advances that increase farm production beyond natural means from protecting our crops with man made pesticides, to increasing yields with synthetic fertilizers and genetically modified crops. .
Despite these agricultural advances, the effects that modern farming has is negatively impacting the environment, and to our health as well. The major concern for pesticides in particular are the lasting effects on the environment. For example, when pesticides reach large bodies of water, they can kill entire ecosystems of beneficial insects, which can damage the earth’s fragile environment.
As people are growing increasingly aware of the effects modern farming has, they demand more environmentally sound solutions. But how can nations keep up with the high demand for food, while also being environmentally conscious? This is where organic farming comes in.
Organic farming means to have food produced with minimal genetic modifications, pesticides, and fertilizers. By turning to nature, we can find alternatives to man-made pesticides that are already employed by nature. Here are a few of them.
Organic Pesticides Overview
According to the USDA, in order for a pesticide to be certified as organic, the chemical must exist in nature and require little to no modification, as well as containing no toxic elements except from the intended target. There are plenty of organic insecticides out there that are natural, and derived from plants. For example, neem oil, which is often used as a pesticide in organic farming and staves off many common pests including aphids, moths, beetles and the like, is a chemical derived from the neem tree and has been used for centuries. It works by disrupting the hormone receptors of these pests.
Fortunately, it doesn’t affect beneficial insects like butterflies, honeybees, and ladybugs. However, according to the National Pesticide Information Center, “Neem oil is slightly toxic to fish and other aquatic animals.” Unless if that person happens to be an expert organic farmer/gardener who has lived in the area for quite a long time, generally-speaking, it is ill-advisiable for first-time organic gardens living near bodies of water to use neem oil. Other than that, though neem oil may not be the most eco-friendly, organic pesticide there ist, compared to synthetic pesticides, it is nevertheless a safer alternative, as are other organic pesticides such as garlic and even, ladybugs.
Often times, when people hear stories about countries using other species to combat pest problems, nine times out of ten, these stories proved to be negative. However, in the 1880s, when a group of citrus farmers in California decided to handle its pest problem using ladybugs(ladybirds), it was regarded as “the first major success of classical biological control”, according to authors J.S. Bale, J.C. van Lenteren, and F. Bigler of Biological control and sustainable food production. As such, the success of this attempt to kill pests proved that even animals could work as “pesticides.” The only drawback to this method is when farmers and scientists do not take the time to learn about the environment around them beforehand.
Despite the fact that organic pesticides contain a few drawbacks, overall, they are more environmentally friendly and more cost-effective than using store-bought, synthetic pesticides and thus should be handled with care and caution. Before attempting to make your own organic pesticide(s) however, be sure to do some research beyond the scope of this article. After all, the role of organic pesticides isn’t to outright kill populations of insects, but to make crops less appetizing to the insect or pest.
Works Cited Bale, J.S, et al. "Biological Control and Sustainable Fod Production." Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. The Royal Society. 27 Feb. 2008. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/PMC2610108/#/!po=7.96178 McEvoy, Miles. "Organic 101: Allowed and Prohibited Substances." USDA, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 25 Jan. 2012. https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2012/01/25/organic-101-allowed-and-prohibited-substances "Neem Oil." National Pesticide Information Center, http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/neemgen.html#env