by André Leu
Chair—Organic Federation of Australia
Conventional farming is dependent on synthetic biocides (pesticides, fungicides and herbicides). These poisons are used in food production to kill pests, diseases and weeds.
More than 7200 registered biocide products are used in Australian agriculture. 1 This is similar in the USA and Europe. Regulatory authorities assure us that these poisons have been rigorously tested and are used safely on our foods and in our environment.
A major myth is that most modern agricultural chemicals leave few residues. We are misled into believing that they break down and do not persist in our food.
A typical claim states:"...Organophosphorous pesticides, carbamate pesticides are mostly biodegradable, and therefore do not concentrate in the food chain. Synthetic pyrethroids... are generally biodegradable and therefore tend not to persist in the environment." 2
These types of statements give a false impression.
The following are some of the poisons found in Australian foods in 2003:
Acephate, Azinphos-methyl, Bifenthrin, Bioresmethrin, Captan, Carbaryl, Chlorfenvinphos, Chlorothalonil, Chlorpyrifos, Chlorpyrifos-methyl, DDT, DDE, Dimethoate, Diphenylamine, Endosulfan, Fenitrothion, Fenoxycarb, Fenthion, Iprodione, Maldison, Metalaxyl, Methamidophos, Methidathion, Methoprene, o-phenylphenol, Parathion-methyl, Permethrin, Piperonyl butoxide, Pirimicarb, Pirimiphos-methyl, Procymidone, Propargite, Propiconazole, Pyrimethanil, Tebufenpyrad, Tetradifon, Vinclozolin 2
Testing in Australia only looks at a small sample of the large number of chemicals used. The majority of agricultural chemicals are not included in residue testing. Some of the most widely used chemicals, including herbicides such as Atrazine, Glyphosate, 2,4-D, Diuron and Paraquat were not included in the testing.
One of the biggest myths is that once a chemical degrades, it disappears and is harmless. Most agricultural poisons leave residues of breakdown chemicals when they degrade.3,4