Here’s another Q&A session with CT NOFA’s Executive Director, Bill Duesing!
1) What are the most common insecticides and the insects they are supposed to kill? Is there a difference between pesticides and insecticides?
Pesticides are substances that kill pests. They can be insects, or weeds, or mites, or fungi, or other living things, hence insecticides, herbicides, miticides, fungicides, etc. All are pesticides. The most common ones vary with each crop. Apple growers need to control apple maggots and others, potato growers need to control potato beetles, broccoli growers control cabbage loopers. See http://www.foodnews.org/ to see which fruits and veggies have the most pesticides on them. You can find out which pesticides are used on each kind of produce here: http://www.whatsonmyfood.org/
2) What are some of the harmful effects of said insecticides?
See the Whatsonmyfood.org web site. Those most at risk from the pesticides are the farm workers who are most exposed to them and nature which can be harmed in a big way.
3) What are the restrictions and laws that organic farmers adhere to? What is the cost associated with certifying a farm?
Organic farmers need to follow the National Organic Standards. You can find them at baystateorganic.org or http://nofavt.org/programs/organic-certification. There are many ways to manage or control pests without pesticides, even organic ones. Crop rotation, timing, encouraging beneficial insects, cover cropping, mechanical methods including exclusion with row covers, vacuuming, etc. Then there are pest controls that are natural and/or biological. Plant extracts like Neem, organisms such as the Bts, things like Kaolin clay which is used to cover apples and deter insects, and newer products derived from soil organisms. See http://www.nysaes.cornell.edu/pp/resourceguide/mfs/07kaolin.php for more information on organic insect and disease management. The cost of certification depends on the size of the operation. I believe that the minimum is under $500 for a small operation and as size increases, the cost of certification does too. However, many farmers can get about three quarters of the certification cost (up to $750 per farm) back through a Federal cost share program. ( I bet these fees are on the websites mentioned above.)
4) What does biotechnology mean to you as an advocate for organic farming and also as an organic farmer yourself? Do you agree with the use of Bt cotton if it reduces the use of harmful pesticides by 80%? Why or Why not?
I'll use GMO as short hand for biotechnology. GMOs are prohibited in organic systems. GMO pollen can be a dangerous pollutant of organic farms if the pollen from GMO corn fertilizes a field of organic corn thousands of feet away as it blows long distances in the wind. I've attached something I wrote providing arguments against biotechnology. It was written a while ago and now they find the very serious weed problems have developed as weeds become resistant to herbicides due to repeated use of the same chemical (which is the primary thing that GMOs do-promote herbicide use). Google "Indian Farmer Suicides" and find things like this: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1082559/The-GM-genocide-Thousands-Indian-farmers-committing-suicide-using-genetically-modified-crops.html and
http://www.democracynow.org/2006/12/13/vandana_shiva_on_farmer_suicides_the. GMO systems are high priced (seeds and chemicals) and are doomed to breed resistance in insects and weeds because of the continual use of a same pesticide. Bt can be used in organic systems, but is just used when needed. In GMO systems, it is there all the time and encourages resistance in the pests and may ruin the usefulness of Bt for organic growers. When Bt is used in GMO corn, the Bt is in all parts of the corn instead of just on the outside as it would be if use on an organic farm. That means that anything that eats the GMO corn is eating Bt on a regular basis as never happened before. The GMO companies (there are only three major ones-Monsanto, Dupont and I believe Syngenta), which have created lots of dangerous and long lasting pollution including agent orange, PCBs, lead in gasoline, ozone destroying chemicals, dangerous pesticides and more. Their pollution is widespread and long lasting. GMOs have been called pollution with a life of their own, and are consistent with the polluting behavior of these companies in the past. They are looking to control the food system. We can't eat the fish in the river near our house because of the PCBs made by Monsanto and distributed by GE from a plant in Pittsfield.
Here's the article on "Arguments Against Biotechnology" that Bill referred to - Link