A synthetic pesticide is a poisonous chemical or mixture of chemicals that is intended to prevent, repel, or kill any pest. In agriculture, pesticides are used to kill insects, weeds, or fungi. However, synthetic pesticides present hazardous impacts far beyond their intended targets.
Synthetic pesticides evolved from the chemicals like mustard gas and nerve poison developed for chemical warfare in World Wars I and II. Seeking an outlet for their toxic chemicals after the war, manufacturers touted them as a way to control insects, fungi, bacteria, plants and other undesirable creatures (ie, "pests").
These new products provided some short term benefits, but came with many unintended consequences. Pests rapidly gained resistance to the chemicals, making them even more difficult to control than before. Also, pesticides killed many non-target organisms beyond pests; as their use increased, biologists noticed dramatic declines of beneficial insects and other animals. We continue to find ways synthetic pesticides are also toxic or carcinogenic to humans.
Pesticides have inherent toxicity because they are designed to kill living organisms that are considered "pests." Many pesticides are known to pose significant, acknowledged health risks to people—including birth defects, damage to the nervous system; disruption of hormones and endocrine systems; respiratory disorders; skin and eye irritations; and various types of cancers.
Pesticide exposure poses special concerns for children because of their high metabolisms and low body weights.
Most babies today are born with persistent pesticides and other chemicals already in their bodies, passed from mother to child during fetal development. 21 different pesticides have been found in umbilical cord blood, suggesting tremendous potential damage at a critical developmental time. Since a baby's organs and systems are rapidly developing, they are often more vulnerable to damage from chemical exposure. The immature, porous blood-brain barrier allows greater chemical exposures to the developing brain.6
Early and pervasive chemical exposures are suspected in the sharp rise of health problems including autism, obesity, asthma, brain cancer and certain other childhood cancers.
USDA National Organic Program (NOP) regulations strictly prohibit the use of synthetic chemical pesticides. Organic growers use biological and cultural practices to handle pests, including crop rotation, the selection of resistant varieties, nutrient and water management, the provision of habitat for the natural enemies of pests, and release of beneficial organisms to protect crops from damage. Organic farmers may use natural pesticides from a list approved by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).
Multiple studies have shown that organic diets significantly lower children’s dietary exposure to pesticides. One University of Washington study analyzed urine from children ages 3 – 11 for organophosphorus (OP) pesticides and found that children consuming conventional foods had concentrations in their bodies that were on average nine times the EPA-established safe level for human health. When the children’s conventional foods were replaced with organic equivalents, their organophosphate levels dropped significantly. When the children resumed a conventional diet, the chemical concentrations in their bodies went back up to original levels. Scientists concluded that, "An organic diet provides a dramatic and immediate protective effect against exposures to organophosphorus pesticides that are commonly used in agricultural production.”8,9
See also "What's on my food?" Pesticide Action Network North America
"Can any one believe it is possible to lay down such a barrage of poisons on the surface of the earth without making it unfit for all life? They should not be called 'insecticides' but 'biocides.'"