Does Organic Farming Use Pesticides?

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Does organic farming use pesticides?

Check out this answer from Consensus:

While organic farming does use pesticides, these are typically natural and less harmful than synthetic pesticides used in conventional farming. Organic farming promotes ecological pest control methods, resulting in lower pesticide residues and reduced environmental and public health risks. However, effective pest management in organic farming requires a combination of strategies and ongoing research to optimize these practices.

Organic farming is often perceived as a pesticide-free alternative to conventional agriculture. However, the reality is more nuanced. This article explores the use of pesticides in organic farming, examining the types of pesticides used, their impact on pest control, and the broader implications for environmental and human health.

Types of Pesticides in Organic Farming

Organic farming does use pesticides, but they differ significantly from those used in conventional farming. Organic pesticides are typically derived from natural sources and include biopesticides, which are less toxic and decompose more quickly in the environment . These biopesticides pose minimal risks to human health and the environment compared to synthetic pesticides used in conventional farming.

Pesticide Use and Pest Control

Organic farming relies on a combination of ecological processes, biodiversity, and mechanical methods to control pests, reducing the need for chemical interventions. Studies have shown that organic farming can enhance biological pest control, although the effectiveness varies by pest type. For instance, organic systems tend to have lower levels of pathogen pests but higher levels of weed pests compared to conventional systems  .

Environmental Impact

The environmental impact of pesticide use in organic farming is generally lower than in conventional farming. Organic fields have significantly fewer pesticide residues, and the concentration of these residues decreases with the duration of organic management . This reduction in pesticide use contributes to better soil health and less harm to beneficial soil organisms .

Public Health Implications

One of the significant benefits of organic farming is the reduced dietary risk from pesticide exposure. Organic foods, especially fruits and vegetables, contain fewer pesticide residues, which can lower the risks associated with dietary pesticide exposure. This makes organic produce a safer option for consumers concerned about pesticide intake.

Challenges and Considerations

Despite the benefits, organic farming faces challenges in pest management. Natural insecticides used in organic farming are generally less stable and potent than synthetic ones, requiring more frequent applications and integrated pest management strategies. Additionally, transitioning to organic farming can be complicated by the presence of pesticide residues from previous conventional farming practices .



Does organic farming use pesticides?

Cynthia Curl has answered Near Certain

An expert from Boise State University in Public Health

Yes, although there are significant restrictions on the pesticides that can be used in organic agriculture. Those restrictions depend somewhat on the national regulatory body issuing the organic certification, but in the US, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP) has strict requirements regarding which pesticides can and cannot be used on crops certified as “organic”. 

The USDA’s NOP prohibits the use of most synthetic pesticides in agricultural production, but allows the use of non-synthetic substances such as soaps and oils, as well as a relatively small number of synthetics including sulfur-containing compounds such as copper sulfate, which can be used to control pests including weeds, insects and algae.  There are several hundred synthetic pesticides registered for use in conventional agricultural; fewer than 30 synthetic pesticides are allowed in organic agriculture. Pesticides allowed in organic agriculture generally have lower toxicity than those used in conventional agriculture, and most of the allowed substances do not have associated tolerances (meaning that they are not considered toxic enough to warrant monitoring for residues.) In addition, organic farmers are required to use synthetic pesticides as a “last resort”; such a requirement does not exist for conventional agriculture.

It is also important to note that not all non-synthetic substances are allowed in organic farming — compounds such as arsenic, strychnine and tobacco dust are not considered synthetic but they are not allowed in organic agriculture.


Does organic farming use pesticides?

Michael Palmgren has answered Near Certain

An expert from University of Copenhagen in Plant Biology, Plant Ecology, Agricultural Science

Organic farming uses pesticides but avoids synthetic ones. For example, copper salts are used as fungicides in organic farming. Copper is a heavy metal that does not disappear from soils when introduced and in the long term it drastically affects soil microbes and worms. This is not good for the environment and therefore organic farming is not always sustainable, which is a problem. This is true also when talking about fertilizers: nitrogen (in the form of ammonium and nitrate) in manure (allowed in organic farming) and synthetic fertilizers (not allowed) are chemically identical.

Plants cannot distinguish between nitrogen in an organic or synthetic fertilizer — the nutrients are taken up and used in exactly the same way. Compost and organic material improve soil structure and introduce beneficial microorganisms. Still, application of excess nitrogen in the form of manure might lead to unsustainable pollution and, depending on the way it is administered, may pollute more than synthetic fertilizers.


Does organic farming use pesticides?

Linda Chalker-Scott has answered Near Certain

An expert from Washington State University in Horticultural Production, Agricultural Science, Organic Food

Absolutely! They just have to be certified as organic through OMRI (Organic Materials Research Institute). You can find their online list here: It’s a long list and divided up by category. Many of these products have no tested efficacy; many of those that have been tested are worthless; and many are more dangerous than synthetics. They just happen to be naturally occurring and therefore registered for organic use.

The OMRI list contains an astounding number of snake oil products with no theoretical or research-based benefits. But they make money. All OMRI does is certify, much like the EPA. Neither organization has any interest in whether the products work as advertised.

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