When we are deciding between purchasing organic food and regularly grown food we may feel that extra cost with the organic is not worth paying. We may conclude that food that has been treated with pesticides must be safe, or it would not be for sale. Generally speaking governments are not inclined to allow any food that will harm us, but there are a number of factors involved. We'll talk about some of those factors here and what may be involved when it comes to a product that has so-called “safe pesticides”.
1. Methods of testing. It's true that science has moved ahead dramatically in testing methods in the last few years. Unfortunately not all of these methods are being used today. Much of the testing is done by feeding animals the chemical being tested, then after slaughter checking their organs under a microscope to examine the effects. Also, there are about 80,000 registered chemicals used in the United States. Only a few hundred of them are tested for safety, and most toxicologists agree that those testing methods are inadequate.
2. What is an “insignificant amount” of pesticides? Chemicals are often tested to find out the level at which they are no longer harmful. Typically that's amount will be reduced and considered insignificance quantity. But surely lowering the dose and calling it safe is not always going to make it safe. Some chemicals such as endocrine disruptors fall into the category of chemicals that are actually as hazardous to your health when consumed in smaller quantities.
3. Do pesticides really break down? Defenders of the method of testing chemicals say that the neurochemicals that are used now are biodegradable and break down, which is unlike the older varieties of chemicals. But residual levels of these chemicals can be found in the food and the water and soil where they are used. And most importantly they do not really disappear when they are in the human body. Often when they break down they do so in other forms that are suddenly much more toxic than the original.
4. How “regulating” are the regulatory authorities. Unfortunately as with all regulatory bodies there are often conflicts of interest. There have been numerous incidents of studies used on chemicals that have been submitted to them by the manufacturers being investigated. It is unquestionably these chemical manufacturers are going to be completely upfront in their studies. Methodologies that are used to establish safe residue levels are too often not completely free of false assumptions. Evidence of that is in the discrepancy of findings of agencies of different countries.
One of the knockings on organic farming is that it is less efficient and produces lower yields. Even on the short-term that arguments can be questioned, but in the long-term properly supporting the health of the soil can have greater long-term benefits. By organically building the soil we will leave it more productive for future generations, and although shorter-term profits usually seem to be the order of the day, sooner or later we'll have to look at things more long-term.