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Pesticides 101

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Pesticides have made news headlines several times recently. The annual Pesticide Data Program (PDP) summary released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Agricultural Marketing Service shows significant differences in pesticide residue levels measured on organic fruits and vegetables compared with their chemically grown counterparts. As to be expected, organic fruits and vegetables, on a whole, have far fewer levels of pesticide residues than conventionally grown produce.

Three independent studies just published also found that children whose mothers are exposed to common agricultural pesticides are more likely to experience a range of harmful effects to their cognitive development, including lower IQ, as well as impaired reasoning and memory.

The peer-reviewed studies, all funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and published online in Environmental Health Perspectives, found links between delayed cognitive development and both dietary and environmental exposure to some of the most widely used agricultural pesticides. The studies examined individuals from a range of ethnic backgrounds, and those who lived in both rural and urban settings.

Learn more about these ground-breaking studies.

Other studies have raised additional concerns about pesticides. In May, the President’s Cancer Panel issued a report highlighting the link between exposure to environmental contaminants, including pesticides, and increased risks of cancer. Shortly thereafter, a study published in the journal Pediatrics concluded that exposure to organophosphate pesticides at levels common among U.S. children may contribute to the prevalence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in these children. 

Just what are pesticides? And what steps can you take to avoid them? 

What is a pesticide?
Though often misunderstood to refer only to insecticides, the term pesticide also applies to herbicides, fungicides, and various other substances used to control pests. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a pesticide is “any substance or mixture of substances intended for: preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest.

What can you do to avoid toxic and synthetic pesticides?
Go organic! By law, organic products must be made without the use of toxic and synthetic pesticides. Organic producers and processors must keep detailed records from the farm to your table. They are also subject to rigorous announced - and unannounced -certification inspections by third-party inspectors to ensure that they are grown and processed in a manner that you and your family can trust.

What are pesticides made from?
Pesticides can be made from a wide range of materials. By law, toxic and synthetic pesticides are prohibited from use in organic agriculture.

What environmental problems do toxic and synthetic pesticides cause?
-Reduced biodiversity
-Water pollution
-Climate change

What human health problems are associated with pesticide exposure?

-Lower IQs
  -Prostate cancer
-Developmental disorders 
-Reproductive disorders
-Parkinson’s disease