p { margin-top: 0px; margin-bottom: 1px } body { font-family: "Times New Roman", serif; font-size: 12pt; font-weight: normal; font-style: normal }Cooperative Extension Service
The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

 

Your source for pest management and pesticide news

November 2002/Volume 25, no. 11

Now that we have a legal definition for "organic," what does it really mean to consumers and producers?

Issue: pesticide residues on food
Issue: the environment
Issue: better taste and nutrition

NEWS YOU CAN USE

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has appointed an 11-member pest control enforcement advisory council to provide FDACS with input and act as a liaison between homeowners, the pest control industry, and regulators.
Among other things, the Bugwood Network provides a very large number of high-quality images of insects and their damage

FEDERAL NEWS

The current Office of Pesticide Programs Web site will soon have a new look and will become more than the OPP home page
The EPA is developing a new Aging Initiative that will result in a national agenda designed to examine and prioritize environmental health threats to older persons

FOOD QUALITY PROTECTION ACT AND REREGISTRATION

Taiwan has temporarily banned U.S. apple imports after finding a codling moth larva in a shipment of Washington Apples
Reregistration eligibility documents (REDS) for endosulfan, methoxychlor, oxyflourfen, and lindane are available for comment

HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

A high school senior and his father have been awarded a patent for an acoustical system that will kill mosquito larvae


Now that we have a legal definition for "organic," what does it really mean to consumers and producers?

In case you missed the definitions, you will begin to see these words on food labels.

100% organic: every ingredient must be organic. May also carry USDA-Organic seal.
Organic:
95% of the ingredients must be organic. I think it means 95 percent of the ingredients by weight. May also carry USDA-Organic seal.
Made with organic ingredients:
at least 70% organic ingredients. No added sulfites.
Some organic ingredients:
less than 70% organic ingredients. Can list them separately.

Organic foods can be officially labeled as of October 21, 2002, if the producer has been certified as organic by a certification body recognized by the USDA. If a producer or processor has gross sales of less than $5,000 annually, they do not have to be certified to use an organic label, but even small producers/processors are subject to audits by the USDA National Organic Program.

Depending on your point of view, organic foods are the next big thing or small potatoes. Organics make up less than 2 percent of the Nations food supply and take up less than 1 percent of U.S. cropland. However, the organic food market has grown nearly 200 percent over the last decade, and sales for 2002 are expected to be more than $11 billion (if you think this figure is staggering, just think how much U.S. agriculture must be worth).

Fruits and dairy are leaders in the organic market. More than 49,000 acres are planted to organic fruit. Organically produced fruits still have many of the properties that allow them to be shipped some distance from the farm. Sales of organic dairy products grew 500 percent from 1994 to 1999. Many consumers are concerned about bovine growth hormone used to make cows produce more milk, even though the FDA has judged the milk to be safe. Ironically, milk prices to farmers in some areas have declined because the local supply of milk exceeds demand.

There are three big reasons why people buy organic products. Many people are concerned about pesticide residues on food. A lot people consider organic production methods better for the environment. A large number of people report that organic foods have better taste or more nutrients.

Unfortunately, nothing is simple. Even though many people will not like it, we are going to make the decision to go organic more confusing.

Issue: pesticide residues on food. The National Academy of Sciences reported that the levels of naturally occurring toxins are typically more abundant in foods than synthetic chemicals. Additionally, toxic chemicals are not a major concern in the human diet. Much greater risks are associated with too much fat, too many calories, or an excess of alcohol. The National Cancer Institute, United States Department of Agriculture, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Cancer Society, Produce Marketing Association, United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity, and the Association of State and Territorial Directors of Health Promotion and Public Health Education encourage consumption of five fruits/vegetables per day; they do not distinguish between organic production and conventionally grown produce.

Many people think that organic production means no pesticides are used. It is not true. The USDA has established a list of chemicals that can be used in organic production. Some of the chemicals are naturally occurring pesticides, such as pyrethrum derived from chrysanthemums or azadirachtin derived from the neem tree. Even though they are naturally occurring, these chemicals are used because they are poisons. The oral LD50 values of pyrethrum in rats range from 200 mg/kg to greater than 2,600 (the wide range is caused by variability in the components of pyrethrum); in contrast, the oral LD50 for aspirin given to rats is 1000 mg/kg. Pyrethrum can be five times more toxic than aspirin. Some synthetic pesticides are more toxic than pyrethrum, and some are less toxic.

One might argue that pyrethrum, neem, and other natural pesticides break down more quickly. This argument is not very helpful. One of the most toxic synthetic pesticides ever made, mevinphos, also broke down in a very short time, with a soil half-life of about three days. Pyrethrum breaks down within hours in sunlight. However, in a vermiculite system, the half-life of azadirachtin-Aranged from 13 to 46 days.

Finally, many pesticide opponents point out that we do not know the long-term effects of synthetic pesticides and their breakdown products, and we do not know the potential effects of pesticide mixtures. This statement is true, but it applies equally to naturally occurring pesticides as well.

Issue: the environment. There is no doubt that pesticides can cause environmental problems. Pesticides and fertilizers can run off into surface water or potentially contaminate groundwater. In organic production, manures often replace synthetic fertilizers. Excess application of manures can also cause serious water contamination problems. With both synthetic fertilizers and manures, the problems are caused by improper or excess application.

Natural pesticides also pose risks to the environment. Pyrethrum is highly toxic to fish. Rotenone, another natural product, is used to kill unwanted fish in lakes and ponds. Nicotine is also natural, but it is not allowed in organic production because it is so dangerous.

Believe it or not, pesticides can also help the environment. The EPA has called erosion one of the primary threats to surface water. Additionally, erosion carries topsoil (along with fertilizers/pesticides) away from farmland. The result is more polluted water and less productive farms. No-tillage and reduced tillage farming can greatly reduce or eliminate erosion. However, no-till/reduced till operations typically rely on herbicides to keeps weeds from competing with crop plants. To control weeds, organic farmers often substitute plowing for herbicides. Regular plowing greatly increases erosion. Additionally, repeated tractor rides across the field mean more soil compaction, more noise, and more air pollution.

Pesticides can also help the environment in another way. Suppose Farmer Brown is able to produce 100 bushels of corn per acre if he uses synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. He leaves another 100 acres of hilly land out of production because he worries about erosion, and Farmer Brown likes to see the birds and other wildlife that live on the unused acreage. One day, Farmer Brown switches to organic production. He likes the idea of using fewer pesticides and no synthetic fertilizers, but he discovers he can only grow 50 bushels of corn per acre. The farmer's family depends on the income from 100 bushels of corn per acre, so the farmer has to plow up the 100 acres of hilly land to maintain the family income. Erosion increases, and the habitat loss eliminates most of the wildlife.

Although it illustrates a valid point, real life is even more complicated than our example. For some crops and in some areas, organic production can be equivalent to conventional production, and the farmer may be able to sell organic crops at a higher price. Unfortunately, many people think organic production can replace conventional production in every location and for every crop.

Issue: better taste and nutrition. No one knows if organic produce is more nutritious, and I would be hard to convince. The plant does not know if the nitrogen, phosphorous, etc. came from synthetic or natural sources.

Flavor is a different issue. In many cases, organic produce is produced and sold locally. Local is the key word. Produce shipped from California to Georgia must be able to withstand the journey. Tomato varieties grown for shipping are selected primarily for shipping qualities, not flavor. Additionally, the produce must be picked before it is ripe. I have seen mountains of tomatoes discarded in Florida because they were too ripe to ship (it also created a smuggling operation for the discarded tomatoes, but that is another story). I strongly support locally grown produce because you can get better varieties picked at the proper time. However, I do not think you could distinguish between local produce grown organically and local produce grown with conventional methods. In many cases, a small, local farm can manage pests with fewer pesticides, but local and organic are not synonymous.

In the end, the choice between organic and conventional is not clear-cut. Unfortunately, it also leads to another debate (fortunately for you, I will not conduct it here). If organic produce really is better for some reason and if it costs more, do we condemn the less affluent portion of society to food that is inferior?

Actions speak louder than words, and I would be less than honest if I did not reveal my own buying and gardening habits. I pay no attention to the organic designation when I shop. No matter how you define it, "organic" is primarily a marketing technique. In my own garden, I select vegetables and fruits that I can grow better at home or items that are expensive in the grocery. I can grow better tomatoes and Brussels sprouts than I can buy anywhere. We have an asparagus patch because my family likes asparagus, but it is expensive to buy. We use little or no pesticides because we do not need them very often. However, a commercial farm could not afford many of our pest control techniques, like newspaper mulches or hand picking insects.

One may complain that this discourse did not defend any particular case. That is true. I do not want to make up your mind or help you spend your money. However, I do want you to understand both sides of the argument.

Should producers consider converting to an organic operation? Follow the money. Remember it takes three years to convert to a certified-organic operation. Organic produce typically commands a higher price only until the demand is satiated. For a while, there was a glut of organic apples, and prices plummeted. Converting your operation to organic is a big decision. Talk to others that have made the switch before you take the plunge.

I do not believe that organic production provides significant risk reduction for consumers and maybe not for the environment, but organic production definitely reduces the health risk for pesticide applicators. Pesticide handlers are at risk, particularly when handling pesticide concentrates. Additionally, organic production will reduce your pesticide costs (your pest control costs may not be reduced as you substitute other things for pesticides) and eliminate many of the headaches associated with pesticide wastes. (Newsweek, 9-30-02 for many of the facts; the opinions are my own.)

News You Can Use

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has appointed an 11-member pest control enforcement advisory council to provide FDACS with input and act as a liaison between homeowners, the pest control industry, and regulators. The council was formed as required by a recently amended state statute. The panel must consist of eight pest management professionals, a FDACS employee, a member of academia (e.g., a university researcher), and a Florida citizen.

Examples of situations in which the pest control enforcement advisory board might be consulted include rule changes and developing issues, such as toxic mold and how it should be regulated. (PCT Online Newsletter, 11-11-02)

In a related story, Pest Control Technology magazine and the Certified Pest Control Operators Association of Florida will conduct a seminar on toxic mold on February 7, 2003, in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

The seminar will feature a speaker faculty of leading public health, regulatory, legal, and insurance experts who handle toxic mold issues. The seminar format will place an emphasis on exchanging information, reviewing the latest trends, and exploring options on how to protect your company from unnecessary risks when dealing with toxic mold situations.

If you want more details, call 800-456-0707. (PCT Online Newsletter, 11-11-02)

Among other things, the Bugwood Network provides a very large number of high-quality images of insects and their damage. More than 5,400 high-quality insect and insect damage photographs taken by over 240 photographers are now available in digital format (http://www.insectimages.org/). The images are classified by subject, common name, scientific name, life stage, and, where appropriate, host. Up to five levels of resolution for each image are available for download and use for educational applications with no royalties or fees as long as appropriate credits are given.

You should also visit the other Bugwood Image sites: Forestry Images (http://www.forestryimages.org/), Invasive.org (http://www.invasive.org/) and IPM Images (www.IPMImages.org) that, together with Insect Images, provide topic specific access to more than 11,000 images and photographs taken by several hundred photographers.

The Bugwood Network (http://www.bugwood.org/) is collaboration between The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the Warnell School of Forest Resources, with developmental and operational funding from and collaboration with the USDA Forest Service, Forest Health Protection, the National Science Foundation Center for Integrated Pest Management, and USDA-APHIS-PPQ.

Please share any high quality photos that you have. See "How to Contribute" on the Insect Images header for details, policies and procedures or contact Keith Douce, kdouce@arches.uga.edu or Dave Moorhead, mailto:moorhead@arches.uga.edu

Federal News

The current Office of Pesticide Programs Web site will soon have a new look and will become more than the OPP home page. For the past 10 months, a workgroup has been reorganizing the pesticide-related Web content from the OPP site, the EPA regional Web sites, and other EPA Web sites into a new "Pesticides Web Site." You can review the draft at http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/changing.htm. The workgroup is interested in receiving any comments on this new structure. A form for submitting comments is available on that page. This Web site is adopting the "topic" approach, which means that the site does not reflect any one organizational component. In fact, organizational information is available on the site only in the "Contact Us" and "About Pesticides" areas. The rest of the site is independent of organizational structure, and is solely organized on the basis of the type of information. (EPA Pesticide Program Update, 11-4-02)

The EPA is developing a new Aging Initiative that will result in a national agenda designed to examine and prioritize environmental health threats to older persons. This will be the first coordinated approach by the agency to address environmental hazards that affect the health of the elderly.

Currently there are 35 million people in the United States 65 years of age and older, and that number is expected to double over the next 30 years. In 2011, the first of the baby boomers will begin to turn 65. Hazards that may adversely impact the health of older Americans are lead, indoor and outdoor air pollution, microorganisms in water, and pesticides.

In December, the National Academy of Sciences will hold a workshop in Washington, D.C., to examine the susceptibility of older persons to environmental health hazard, and what interventions can be undertaken to reduce the exposure to environmental hazards. (EPA Pesticide Update, 10-31-02)

I do not intend to make light of problems that may affect the elderly, but almost everything in Washington has a political bent. Older people are also the most likely to vote, and they are more likely than younger people to vote Republican. It also irks me when any Agency announces a new program to protect a certain group. Should not everyone be protected?

Food Quality Protection Act and Reregistration

Taiwan has temporarily banned U.S. apple imports after finding a codling moth larva in a shipment of Washington apples. Taiwan is the third largest importer of Washington apples and has been a customer for 25 years.

Codling moth is a serious fruit pest in the United States. It is understandable why other countries would want to prevent its introduction. This ban underscores the need for U.S. growers to have access to reliable pest management tools. According to Heather Hansen, Executive Director, Washington Friends of Farms & Forest, organophosphates are the only effective control for codling moth.

Take this news with a grain of salt, although we strongly support U.S. growers' access to a wide arsenal of pesticides. We were not able to discover what techniques had been used in the orchard(s) where the infested fruit was grown. Additionally, there may be other political issues or trade issues behind the Taiwanese ban.

Reregistration eligibility documents (REDS) for endosulfan, methoxychlor, oxyflourfen, and lindane are available for comment. If you care about any of these pesticides, the RED may be the last chance for you to provide input. The comment deadline for lindane and methoxychlor is 11-22-02. The deadline for oxyflourfen is 12-3-02. The deadline for endosulfan is 1-6-03. See www.epa.gov/pesticides for details.

Health and the Environment

A high school senior and his father have been awarded a patent for an acoustical system that will kill mosquito larvae. Their new company proposes systems for storm drains and other small areas of standing water. The Connecticut commissioner for the state Department of Environmental Protection called the invention a major scientific breakthrough in the fight against West Nile virus. I do not agree with that statement, but it is an interesting development. (The Hartford Courant, 11-8-02)

We postulate that the system amplifies a combination of heavy-metal rock and rap music into a frequency that mosquitoes can hear. Soon the larvae turn to drugs and devil-worship, and the mosquito society collapses. The researchers also experimented with disco and easy listening; the mosquitoes were highly annoyed, but it did not kill them.

Just when you thought it was safe to let the cat back in the house, two tourists were hospitalized in New York City after they contracted bubonic plague. Authorities stressed that the plague is not a threat to the public. There are about 10 to 20 plague cases in the United States each year, mostly in rural areas of the West. The disease is fatal in about 14 percent of the U.S. cases.

Pest control companies across the country may expect queries as the news spreads. Plague symptoms include fever and swollen lymph nodes. Antibiotics are usually an effective treatment. Bubonic plague is usually transmitted from fleas that feed on infected rodents. Health officials concluded that the infected tourists were infected in their home state of New Mexico after rodents and fleas on the New Mexico property tested positive for the disease.

Bubonic plague is no longer a major disease, but people still fear the reputation of a disease known as the Black Death that once killed nearly 40 million people during a 5-year period in the middle of the 14thcentury. (AP News, 11-7-02)

The appearance of any trade name in this newsletter is not intended to endorse that product nor convey negative implications of unmentioned products.

Dear Readers:

The Georgia Pest Management Newsletter is a monthly journal for extension agents, extension specialists, and others interested in pest management news. It provides information on legislation, regulations, and other issues affecting pest management in Georgia.

Do not regard the information in this newsletter as pest management recommendations. Consult the Georgia Pest Management Handbook, other extension publications, or appropriate specialists for this information.

Your input in this newsletter is encouraged.

If you wish to be added to the mailing list, just call us at 706-542-2816

Or write us:
Department of Entomology
University of Georgia
Athens, GA 30602
E-mail:pguillebeau@bugs.ent.uga.edu

Or visit us on the Web. You will find all the back issues there and other useful information. http://www.ces.uga.edu/Agriculture/entomology/pestnewsletter/newsarchive.html

Sincerely

Dr. Paul Guillebeau, Associate Professor & Extension Entomologist