Saturday, October 25, 2008

What is pesticide?

Pesticides are chemicals designed to kill or control undesirable organisms. Unlike other toxic chemicals, pesticides are deliberately dispersed over large areas of the rural and urban environment. They are used within agriculture and forestry to kill pests and weeds, on roads and railways to prevent weed growth and by industry to protect manufactured products.
Pesticides can be classified according to the types of pest organism they are designed to attack; insecticides work against insects, herbicides against weeds, fungicides against fungi, and rodenticides against rodents. Pesticides come in different physical forms such as liquids, powders, or granules.

Pesticides Usage
The global business in pesticide sales gained momentum in the second half of the twentieth century. The number of active ingredients approved for use has increased from some dozens in the late 1950s to around eight hundred in the 1990s, and those active ingredients may be formulated in thousands of different products. As a rule of thumb, pesticide use has doubled every ten years since the early 1950s.
Agrochemical usage by world areas 2000
Area % (Total $29.2 billion)

Western Europe 19.8%

Eastern Europe 2.7%

East Asia 27.5%

North America 29.1%

South America 14.9%Rest of World 6.0%
(Source: International Greenpeace)

Pesticide use in Cambodia
A CEDAC survey conducted in 2000 showed that of 933 farmers surveyed, 67 % used pesticides. Of these 44% began using them in the 1980s with the rest beginning in the 1990s. Insecticides and rodenticides (rat poison) are, by far, the most commonly used pesticides in Cambodia. Herbicide use is not yet common but practices in other countries in the region suggest that usage is likely to increase.Herbicides are already available on Cambodian markets –many of them with glyphosate or 2.4-D as active ingredients. Although fungicide use is extremely rare,products can easily be found. Pesticides are used in greater volumes on vegetables (e.g.72 litres or kg per hectare per year) than rice (1 litre or kg per hectare per year).

An IRRI report showed that, depending on the province, 40-100 % of dry season and 8-50% of wet season rice farmers use pesticides.

Surveys of Cambodian markets reveal that most pesticides come from Vietnam and Thailand (c.21% and c.69% respectively in Kandal Province). Other products are manufactured elsewhere (China, Japan, India, United Kingdom), but formulated and packaged in Thailand or Vietnam.
Some pesticides on sale in Cambodia are banned in their country of origin. 42 of 241 products available in 2000 were banned in Vietnam, whilst another  are banned in Thailand. This has led to fears that Cambodia is becoming a dumping ground for unwanted and dangerous pesticides. (By Environmental Justice Foundation).

Human Exposure
Humans are exposed to pesticides in a number of ways. Those occupationally engaged in pesticide production or application will receive the highest exposures. In more developed countries training in pesticide application and modern equipment used for pesticide application reduce the exposure levels of workers. In developing countries where training may be minimal and application equipment substandard workers receive much higher exposures. Most frequently farm workers apply pesticides without wearing protective clothing and using knapsack sprayers which may be leaking. The incidence of acute poisonings is high.Pesticides and HealthMany pesticides are toxic and since their first use it has been known that they present a risk to human health. In China, many of the pesticides used are highly toxic and this has resulted in tens of thousands of users suffering the effects of pesticide poisoning which is sometimes fatal. Other users may suffer from long term health impacts as a result exposure to pesticides.
Chronic Effects
As well as the acute, or short term adverse effects of pesticides, there is the possibility of longer term effects on health. These effects may occur following acute exposure. Alternatively, long-term exposure to low levels of pesticides may result in health impacts.
Acute Risks
The most obvious effects on human health are acute poisonings which occur during or shortly after an exposure to a pesticide. Such incidents are common in developing countries where regulations may be less strict, where there is insufficient capacity for enforcing regulations, or where farmers have insufficient access to training, application equipment and appropriate protective clothing. (Source: Internation Greenpeace)

Poisoning evidence from Cambodia:
A recent (2000) report from the FAO Community IPM programme provided strong evidence of pesticide poisoning among Cambodian farmers, the majority of whom were using chemicals classed as moderately to extremely hazardous to human health(WHO classifications Ia, Ib, II). Of 210 pesticide-using farmers interviewed, 88% had experienced symptoms of poisoning (dizziness, headaches, night sweats, shortness of breath, chest pains, red eyes, unconsciousness) during or after spraying. 35% reported vomiting, a sign of moderate poisoning after spraying, whilst 5% had experienced unconsciousness, indicative of serious poisoning.

According to a CEDAC report, in1999, at least one farmer died from pesticide poisoning and several became seriously ill. In Siem Reap in 2000, seven Cambodians died and 79 became sick after eating normally nontoxic tetradontus fish. (By Environmental Justice Foundation, Death in Small Doses: Cambodia's pesticide problems and solution.)

Pesticides and the Environment
Application of pesticides to crops inevitably leads to the contamination of the environment. An amount of pesticide will be vaporised and eventually deposited again by rainfall, some pesticide will remain in the soil while some may reach surface and groundwater.Pesticides and Wildlife
The use of pesticides has undoubtedly lead to adverse impacts on many species of wildlife although it has often taken years to reach an understanding of the impacts. Adverse impacts can occur in a variety of ways such as direct contact causing death or injury, contamination of food sources or removal of food sources. Effects of pesticides on wildlife have been reported in most classes of animals including bees and other beneficial insects, birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals.

Ignorance of health risks (In case of Cambodian farmers)
According to a 1994 Government report, 82% of Cambodian farmers believed that pesticides had no effect on human health, 14% thought that sickness was possible and none envisaged a risk of death. Even when health risks are accepted, many believe that danger only exists if pesticides are ingested orally, rather than via the skin orinhalation. Said farmer Keo Chouk, 19, “If you don’t drink [the pesticide] you will never die. If you are careful, you will never have a problem”. 

Blind Sorrow by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

One bitter time of mourning, I remember,When day, and night, my sad heart did complain,My life, I said, was one cold, bleak December,And all its pleasures, were but whited pain.

Nothing could rouse me from sullen sorrow,Because you were not near, I would not smile. And from a score of joys refused to borrow One ray of light, to gild the weary while

But all the blessing God has given, scorning,I wept because we were so far apart,And spent my time in idle, aimless mourning,That only kept the grief fresh in my heart.

God pity me! Know now we were nearer,With all these intervening smiles of space,That life was sweeter, and the future dearer,That when to-day I met you, face to face!

God meant to break it gently, ease my anguish,But I rebelled, and caviled at His will.Now, seeing His great wisdom, though I lauguish,In bitter pain, I trust His mercy still.

Farming with Nature, Farming for Life

By Gerd Leipold, Executive Director,Greenpeace International
One of the greatest errors of our time is believing that increasing food production can be achieved by fighting nature. Killing all insects in the area and destroying the soil by applying vast amounts of chemicals to nurture a single crop on thousands of hectares have turned fields into factories, not food-baskets.

Industrial agriculture may have worked for a few years. It may even have yielded some stunning harvests, for a while. But today we know this approach to farming is a dead end. It fails in the long-term because it compromises the very resources on which our food supply depends. Soil deteriorates, water becomes scarce and contaminated, dependence on increasing amounts of fertiliser results in ever decreasing yields, weeds become resistant to pesticides, and pests more difficult to control. Around the world there are numerous examples of regions that once were breadbaskets but now are sandy dustbowls laden with pollutants and devoid of water and life. This is not an environmentalist’s scaremongering; it is the consensus of the global scientific community. Last week, governments and scientists from all around the world gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa, to debate the final report of the first ever council on world agriculture – the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development. Several hundred scientists worked for three years to take stock of the current global state of farming. Their final report – which was adopted by over 60 governments, including China – is a sobering account of industrial farming’s failure. It concludes that chemical-intensive agriculture fails to meet local communities’ needs for building their livelihoods and achieving a healthy, varied diet. The report calls for a systematic redirection of agricultural research, to better address hunger, severe social inequities and environmental problems.

Today, rocketing prices have created a severe food crisis, putting key staples beyond the reach of the world’s poor. Key triggers are climate change, which is disrupting weather cycles, increasing drought and floods, contributing to poor harvests. And the rush for biofuels in international markets, mainly driven by policies in the United States and European Union, which is diverting productive land away from food to fuel, increasing speculation in commodity markets.

The rise in oil prices is also increasing food costs because industrialised agriculture is addicted to fossil fuels. All synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, machinery and, last but not least, food’s long transport route, need fuel. And the increased demand for meat is forcing grain to be diverted from feeding people to feeding livestock. To produce 120 kilograms of meat –the annual average of a person living in the US – requires 750 kg of grain for animal feed. Not only is this an unhealthy diet, it is devastating for the world’s undernourished poor.

The answer to this crisis is not more of the same, but a fundamental re-orientation of agriculture on a global scale. As the International Agriculture Assessments emphasises, “the ecological footprint of industrial agriculture is already too large to be ignored.” As a start, it recommends taxing the use of agrochemicals and fossil fuels to help reduce some of the damaging effects of industrial farming. For the most devastating practices, such as using toxic chemicals near streams, the report calls for an outright ban.

Indeed, the facts are sobering. In China, ‘nutrient’ pollution from chemical intensive agriculture represents a main threat to ground water, rivers, lakes and coastal oceans. Today, more than 85% of the nation’s lakes are under serious nutrient pollution stages. Nutrient pollution can lead to massive algae blooms. Some type of algae can produce toxins that can sicken or even kill human and aquatic organisms. During 2007, 82 cases of harmful algal blooms were reported in Chinese coasts, covering 11,610 km2 of seawater. Algaeblooms can lead to the creation of dead zones in coastal oceans where lack of oxygen makes it impossible for fish, crabs and other animals to survive. In 2006, the United Nation Environment Programme declared both the Pearl River estuary and the Yangtze River estuary as new dead zones.
Half a million tons of toxic pesticides are released into the environment in Asia each year, with China one of the largest consumers of pesticides in the world.
So what is the alternative? How do we increase productivity to feed seven, eight or even 10 billion people globally, without converting more land to agriculture and resorting to the destructive technical methods of the past? Some say genetic engineering (GE) is the answer. The International Agriculture Assessment is very clear that it does not see GE crops as any kind of solution to poverty and hunger. In contrast, it suggests a broad range of options that can be best described as intelligent farming. This includes farming that is ecological and champions biodiversity. Farming that is adapted to local needs and conditions, which uses local seed varieties as well as local and traditional knowledge.

The modern way of farming should work with nature and with people, not against them. Millions of farms on all continents already prove that ecological and sustainable agriculture can provide sufficient food, increase food security, replenish natural resources and provide a better livelihood for farmers and local communities. To exploit fully the potential of agriculture that is healthy and rich in biodiversity requires a sea-change in research priorities. Governments need to ensure that the majority of expenditure for agricultural research – nationally as well as internationally –and its dissemination is invested in farming systems that do not pollute or deplete natural resources, and which enable communities to feed themselves and others with a nutritious and balanced diet. The future of farming is green, and it promises sufficient food for all of us.
(The author is International Executive Director of Greenpeace.)

What is Natural Farming?

(Sitting in the front is Mr. Han Gyue Cho, president of Janong Natural Farming)
Natural Farming utilizes natural resources made locally by farmers themselves with natural farm by-products aided by locally available indigenous micro-organisms instead of using herbicide and pesticide. Natural Farming results in the superior agricultural roducts with the high productivity and the minimum cost and labor by maximizing the nature’s potential.

-Natural Farming pursues harmony with nature based on the law of nature (three spirits : water, heat, air two heats : heat from sky , heat from ground three bodies : sky, earth, air)

-Natural Farming farmers produce their own agricultural resources/material easily with natural resources and agro-livestock by-products from the farm.

-Natural Farming encourages the combined agriculture and livestock farm to cross-utilize the by-products to make the animal feed and natural fertilizers. Natural Farming principles and technology has already been established for the livestock farming as well as for the crops.-In Natural Farming, the application of the natural fertilizer/feed is managed based on the Nutritive Cycle Theory.
No Pesticide
Natural Farming does not use pesticide at all. Pesticides not only kill insects, but also remain in the soil and in fruits. When absorbed, it can inflict serious lasting harm to our bodies and even our descendants. Natural Farming helps the corrupt ecosystem to recover. The recovered and balanced ecosystem results in less pests and less diseases. Fruits from Natural Farming exhibit natural colors, fragrance, and sometimes insect bite marks, a proof of zero pesticides.
No herbicide
Natural Farming does not use herbicides. Killing the weeds with herbicides is not the only solution, nor is it wise. Herbicide is lethal to human also. Natural Farming utilizes the weeds rather than killing them. We intentionally grow the wild grass such as rye and clover for mulching. The grass prevents soil erosion, holds moisture, helps micro-organisms to propagate, produces organic fertilizer, improves soil ventilation and suppresses pests.
No Tilling
Natural Farming promotes no mechanical tilling of the land. Instead of using tilling machines, we use earthworms, micro-organisms and small animals to nurture the soil. Machine plows 8 inches at best, whereas earthworms can dig 13 to 23 feet into the ground. The excretions of the earthworms produce the best nutrient-rich soil.No chemical fertilizerNatural Farming does not use chemical fertilizer. Nitrogen, phosphoric acid, potassium, calcium and all other elements that would be commonly given in the form of chemical fertilizer are substituted with Natural Farming materials. Fish amino acid provides nitrogen, eggshells give calcium, and animal bones are the source of phosphoric acid. Our Natural Farming materials are not only cheap, but also highly effective.
Livestock barn with no pollution
There’s no pollution from Natural Farming livestock barns. Natural Farming livestock barns and pens do not discharge any wastewater. When feces from livestock fall on the floor, it is quickly decomposed by powerful micro-organism activities. Concrete is not used on the barn floor. The floor is in direct contact with the soil which teems with micro-organisms. The floor consists of a mixture of rice straws, sawdust, and fresh soil. There is no need to clean or remove animal waste and feces from Natural Farming barns even after many years of use. They do not pile up; they are decomposed with little smell. Natural Farming barns do not smell. Natural resources, such as the sunlight, efficient air circulations and micro-organisms, are utilized to maintain the floor dry and fluffy. It is a common sight to see a Natural Farming barns or pens right next to a resident building.
No artificial heating
Natural Farming barns and pens do not need any artificial heating. Instead of using fossil fuel or electricity to provide heating, we help the livestock to develop the natural resistance against cold. Natural Farming chickens grow short, tough and dense hair whereas ordinary chickens have long, soft and sparse hair. In cold regions, the heat coming from fermentation of compost is utilized to maintain a comfortable temperature level in the barn.
Natural Feed made locally by Farmers
Natural Feed made locally by Farmers. Chickens are fed with whole brown rice grains and bamboo leaves immediately after hatching. Tough fiber-rich feed strengthens their intestines. Animals raised by Natural Farming methodology are healthy, strong and have little diseases.
Nutritive Cycle Theory
Natural Farming raises crops and livestock based on the Nutritive Cycle Theory. It is a theory that enables us to identify the changing growth stages of plants and animals. Natural Farming methodology is a very elaborate, complicated and precise method that denies the “spray-and-forget”kind of approach. Natural Farming emphasizes the right use of the right material, at the right stage, and in the right quantity.

Indigenous micro-organism (IMO)
Indigenous micro-organisms are powerful and effective natural resources that improve the soil conditioning and the crop health. They are easily collected from local woods or fields using a simple wooden lunch box containing steamed rice. They are then cultivated mixed with brown sugar and rice bran. By utilizing micro-organisms that survived and adapted to the local environment for hundreds or thousands of years, we can obtain safe, cheap, yet powerful natural fertilizers and livestock feeds.
Oriental Herbal Nutrient (OHN)
Oriental herbal nutrient is made from herbs valued in oriental medicine, such as licorice, cinnamon, garlic and ginger.
Fermented Plant Juice (FPJ)
New sprouts and young fruits with high hormone concentration, fully ripened fruits, flower abundant in honey, and any plant with strong fragrance are good resources to make Fermented Plant Juice (FPJ). FPJ is made by fermenting plant juices extracted from plant parts in brown sugar utilizing the osmotic pressure.
Fish amino acid (FAA)
FAA is made from fermented fish or leftover parts (head, guts, bones, etc), especially the fish having green-color back. You can make a great protein source from fish by extracting juice from fish fermented with brown sugar. FAA is in the liquid form, and is used as a high quality natural nitrogen fertilizer for crops.
Water-soluble Calcium Phosphate (WCP)
WCP is derived from animal bones dissolved in the brown-rice vinegar.It suppresses an excessive nitrogen manifestation. It is particularly effective for plants in the transition stage between the growth and the fruiting stages.
Water-soluble Calcium (WCA)
WCA is extracted by dissolving shells of eggs, oysters, crabs, etc. in the brown-rice vinegar. Calcium is effective in increasing the fruit sugar level or maturing the fruits at the later stages of growth.
Lactic acid bacteria (LAB)
LAB is made from the rice-washed water and pure milk. It is similar to the yogurt making process. LAB gives strength to a weak plant which is losing the photosynthesis capability. LAB also has an outstanding effect in increasing the size of fruits.
Insect Attractant (IA)
Instead of pesticide, Natural Farming uses various natural insect attractants (fermented plant juice mixed with raw rice wine) to get rid of insects. Insects’keen sense of smell and taste is utilized to lure and catch insects into IA-containing plastic bottles with open side windows. (Source: Janong Natural Farming)

Soil and Friendship must be cultivated

What is Agriculture?

Agriculture, or farming, is the simplification of nature's food webs and the rechanneling of energy for human planting and animal consumption. Huh? You may ask. To simplify, agriculture involves redirecting nature's natural flow of the food web. The natural flow of the food web is-the sun provides light to plants. Plants convert sunlight into sugars which provide food for the plants(this process is called photosynthesis). Plants provide food for herbivores (plant-eating animals, i.e., sloths) and the herbivores provide food for carnivores (meat-eating animals, i.e., jaguars). Decomposers or bacteria, break down plants or animals that have died. Nutrients from the plants and animals go back into the soil and the whole process starts anew.What happens with agriculture is that this web is interrupted. Instead of having herbivores eat the plants, the plants are protected for human consumption. This means that not only are plant eating animals excluded from the food web, but also carnivorous animals and even decomposers. However, if a farmer is planting corn to feed their cattle, the cattle eat the corn to fatten up and then are eventually slaughtered for human consumption. Even though a herbivore (cow) is eating the plant (corn) the web in interrupted when the cow is killed for human consumption.

Are there different types of agriculture?
Yes. There is conventional agriculture and sustainable agriculture (agro-ecology).
Conventional agriculture,
most commonly practiced in the United States, usually involves the following criteria:
-altering or changing the natural environment (removing trees, tilling the soil, installing an irrigation system, etc.
-mono-cropping, or planting one crop (ex: only corn is grown in a plot).-the crops grown are nonrenewable
- after harvesting, the plot is bare again and requires cultivation (tilling and plowing of the soil), fertilization, planting, irrigation (watering), and harvesting all over again.-diversity is eliminated in order to maintain uniformity
-using insecticides and pesticides to keep insects and animals from eating the crops; these chemicals are not only poisonous to insects, animals and humans, they also pollute ground water, streams, rivers, and oceans.using inorganic fertilizers to provide nutrients to the soil
-a lot of energy and work for the farmer to maintain this unnatural farming system; nature is more aligned with diversity (it wants to be wild), rather than controlled and uniform.Here are some examples of crops which undergo conventional agriculture: corn, wheat, rice, bananas, soy bean, etc
What are the effects of conventional agriculture?
-since the plot is stripped of its natural environmental features, the plants are vulnerable to disease, high herbivore predation, and soil erosion.
-a decrease in bio-diversity means many animals lose their habitat and either relocate or become extinct.-after harvesting, the plot is empty, leaving the soil bare and prone to soil erosion.
-the use of insecticides and pesticides pollutes the environment on many levels: the soil, streams, creeks, rivers, underground water sources, well water, the ocean, and even the air. When these chemicals are ingested (eaten) or inhaled, they can poison animals and people. This poisoning can cause severe illness and even death.-crop disease, drought (no rain), fire, or heavy rain-fall can destroy a crop, thus causing severe economic hardship for the farmer and even the consumer because when the quantity of a crop is low (when the supply is low) the price is increased.
Sustainable agriculture (agro-ecology) uses ecological principles to farm, hence the prefix agro- to farm and ecology
- the science of the relationship between organisms and their environments. Agro-ecology involves:
-maintaining the natural environment and using ecological principles for sustained farming practices-poly-cropping, or planting many crops together (ex: planting rows of corn, bean, and squash together rather than in separate plots, like in mono-cropping)
-since many plants are planted together, and each one has a different harvesting period, the plot is never bare. This reduces soil erosion.
-diversity is maintained and even increased over time-a diverse system of plants may attract several species of herbivores. Some of these herbivores like to eat specific kinds of plants. Predator species usually do not have a preference for which herbivores to eat. This predation keeps the herbivore population in check, thus reducing predation of any one crop.
-Plants- such as citrosa, are natural insect repellents. This eliminates the need to use insecticides.
-nutrients from each intercrop plant provide different nutrients to the soil, thus increasing its fertility (ability to sustain life).
-less energy is required from the farmer because the agriculture system sustains itself
Here are some examples of sustainable agriculture crops: shade coffee; multiple cropping in Germany- for example, they plant carrots, beets, and onions together in a plot; in Mexico, they do the same with corn, bean, and squash. In Italy, they plant both annual and perennial crops to create a diverse home garden; in other areas, they use cover cropping in orchards to inhibit weed growth, etc.
What are the effects of sustainable agriculture?
-using ecological principles increases bio-diversity. Not only are animals' homes salvaged (saved), but the natural ecological system protects itself (sustains itself) from soil erosion, severe herbivore predation, and crop disease.
-since insecticides and pesticides are not used, pollution and the harmful effects of ingesting these poisons are not an issue-since each intercropping plant supplies a different nutrient to the soil, less or (even no) fertilizers are added to the soil
-this type of agriculture is aligned with nature and uses the principles of nature to sustain itself (there's nothing better than that!)
-farmers experience less or no economic loss with this type of agriculture system because the natural environment protects itself from crop disease (due to diversity of species), soil erosion (benefits of intercropping plants with different harvesting periods), flooding (the intercropping plants absorb heavy rain-falls), droughts (the intercrops provide moisture and shade for each other), and fire (extra moisture and shade keeps plants from drying out and becoming more susceptible to fire).
Which type of agriculture practice do you think is better for the environment and ultimately ourselves? Before you answer, here are some interesting facts:
Did you know that according to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) that 90% of deforestation is caused by unsustainable agriculture?Did you know that in Costa Rica, 133 ant species and 126 beetle species were found in just one shade coffee tree. Talk about diversity!(This lesson plan was developed by Lisa M. Algee, an Environmental Education PhD student at the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC).