Guy’s news: Why I don’t trust the regulation of pesticides

According to the gov.uk website “On the best science available, no harm will come to people who consume an amount of pesticide that is below the safety limits for that pesticide”. Yet 147 pesticides I was assured were safe in the 1970s, based on the “best science available” at the time, have subsequently been banned, as risks to users, the environment or the public have emerged. Why has the regulatory approach repeatedly underestimated risk from pesticides?

The “cocktail effect” might explain some of the failures. Assessments almost always look at toxins in isolation, despite the fact that synergistic or “cocktail effects” (whereby two toxins can create effects together greater than the sum of their individual toxicities), were first proven in the 1960s and are now well established. With two thirds of fruit and veg containing detectable pesticide residues, and with so many chemical toxins in our environment, the possible combinations are almost infinite, making realistic assessment impractical.

A second possible reason for science getting it wrong is the assumption that the dose determines the poison. Hormones don’t work in this way; their action, through time and site specificity, is much more subtle. Many pesticides are known endocrine (hormone system) disruptors, so we shouldn’t be surprised to find unexpected effects at minute doses, often below those considered “safe”.

It’s easy to design an experiment to determine whether a chemical kills or damages a rat (and by extrapolation poses danger to humans) if the effect is quick, short-lived and in isolation. If the effect is slow, things get harder. If it is complicated by interactions with other chemicals, environmental factors or disease, things get progressively more complex until convincing results become
practically impossible to obtain. Absence of convincing results has too often been taken as evidence of safety.

Based on the evidence of history and on common sense, I believe there can be no absolutely “safe” level for pesticides (especially endocrine disruptors); only degrees of risk which you may or may not deem acceptable. For those with the time and interest please see riverford.co.uk/pesticides-you-decide for an extended version with references.

9 responses to “Guy’s news: Why I don’t trust the regulation of pesticides

  1. I once contacted an organic supplier because they boasted they only use 30 pesticides whereas non-organic farmers were using way over a hundred. I asked them which pesticides they used and got no reply.

    Do your farms use any pesticides?

    • Hi Anna, there are 15 pesticides permitted by the Soil Association in organic farming (opposed to over 320 which can be routinely used in non-organic farming), of which we do use a few of on occasion.
      These pesticides are derived from natural ingredients including garlic, clove oil and seaweed, and are only used under very restricted circumstances and as a last resort. No herbicides (weed killers) are permitted in organic farming.
      In reality, we very rarely need to use any and biological pest control is enough for 90% of our crops; that’s controlling pests by encouraging their natural enemies.

  2. Great post, only last week I was tested positive for intoxication and allergic reaction to mercury and pesticides, I felt very ill. We can’t trust science anymore as they are paid or threatened to hide the truth. The same goes for Doctors, we can’t trust them anymore, they are paid to prescribe poison. They all became drug dealers. There is no safe pesticide, for goodness sake. Remember tobacco? How it was made to be safe and good for your health? We just have to follow the money to find the truth. The responsibility is ours, we gave our power away to this psychopaths, and it’s up to us to take it back. If we don’t, we will be exterminated, extinct, and the planet destroyed.

  3. Ana has a point.. it DOES start with obsessive acquisitiveness and the consequent worship of the god of money. This is something we all have to deal with, one way or another, but mercifully not everyone is willing to kill off the world in the search for in the world. The doctors do their best, but are brainwashed from the day they enter medical school. They face litigation if they go outside accepted practise. (Ethics) I feel intensely sorry for them – at least for those worthy medics whose interest really is the wellbeing of their patients.
    When confronted with the remark that there isn’t any difference between organically nurtured and “orthodox” (Orthodox? Right thinking? NOT), I no longer try to argue against prejudice. I just point out that as, thanks to people like you, Guy, I have the choice between food with no poisons at all ever, and food poisoned right from its seed before even being planted, and common sense guides me to choose NO POISONS thank you.

  4. I feel I am living proof of all that is mentioned. I have been a diabetic on insulin for 50 yrs. For the last 15 yrs or so my digestive syste=m has been ‘up the creek!’ Diagnosis from the establishment concluded that as I tested negative for coeliac then I did not have a problem, but I did, have a problem that is. Self trial with different foods, like wheat and lactose, gave improvements, but they were temporary. Same with eating paleo. Now, since I decided to be totally organic, make everything I eat myself, I am suddenly cured. Went through a period of retro, obviously a detox, but now feel like a whole new healthier person.

  5. It is very important to know how to grow healthy vegetables on a healthy Soil for healthy animals and healthy human consumption and how to get healthy compost to keep Soil healthy and apparently according to Sir Albert Howard if this things are done right pests keep away. Only best farmers know how to do that and only real farmer will be sensitive and not approving disturbing nature and health methods. Organic farmer is the boss about farming.

  6. This morning on R4 I heard Owen Patterson, a govt minister with responsibility for environmental issues, crowing that Brexit would free us from the EU’s “irrational hatred of new technology”, and when pressed as to what he meant by that he described the proposed ban on Roundup (a known endocrine disruptor and carcinogen) as “irrational”!!! If that is government thinking, we would all be wise to distrust their “regulation” of pesticides. Get active in the Election campaigns, everybody who cares about eating healthy food grown organically.

  7. I find Patterson very frightening – he praises a so called farmer for no till and caring for soil then complains that the so called farmer is unable to use roundup to finish his crops (as a desiccant I assume). Its common sense surely – if you put poison in the soil and on your crops you’re gonna grow poison food. When on earth will people wake up to this ?

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