Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Part 2 - How can you reduce pesticides in your food?

Abe V Rotor

Pear, still life

What should we do with vegetables under the second category – those that are raised with chemical spraying as a prescribed horticultural practice? Here are some tips of getting the least effect of the pesticide used.

1. Avoid the organophospates. Get advice from the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority, or from your agriculturist. Organophosphates are the most poisonous of all pesticides. Examples are Parathion, Azinphos, Bromophos, Demethon, Diazinon, EPN, DDVP, TEEP, Thiomethon. There are 70 organophosphates packed and marketed under different brand names in the FPA list. Read the label carefully and check for the kind of active ingredient.

2. Carbamates have lower lethal dosage and are therefore comparatively less toxic to human and animals. Examples are Aldicarb, Benomyl, Carbaryl, Carbufuran, Carboxin, Methomyl, Cartap, Thiobencarb. FPA listed more than 20 carbamates, which carry different brand names in the market.

3. Intermediate in toxicity between the two groups (organophosphates and carbamates) are the organochlorines or chlorinated hydrocarbons such as Endusulfan. Pertane, Heptachlor, BHC Toxaphene. Because the residual toxicity does not only stay long but persists in the organism it is carried through the food chain. Many of these organochlorines are banned. This is particularly true with DDT and Chlordane. Under FPA regulation the presence of these in the market is considered illegal.

4. Herbicides belong to two groups: chlorophenoxy compounds and nitro and chlorophenols. One big disadvantage of herbicides is their destructive effects to living things and the environment. But when it comes to toxicity, gram for gram, rodenticides or rat poisons are the most dangerous. Keep them away from humans and animals. Dispose used baits and containers properly, particularly the acute rodenticides (e.g. zinc phosphide and sodium cyanide). Note: these are highly regulated by FPA.

5. Remember, spraying with chemicals is an ultimate recourse in pest control. Pest control must be integrated with good farming. That is why the government is pursuing Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Successful IPM models in other countries have drastically reduced the use of chemical pesticides. Follow the threshold level formula which means, spray your field only when the pest has reached the destructive phase. Do not spray because of mere presence of the pest.

6. Choose botanical pesticides, such as nicotine, rotenone, neem and pyrethrum because they are biodegradable and very much less expensive. In fact they can be formulated on the farm. Ask your agriculturist how to use them.

Here are additional tips to both growers and consumers:

1. Do not harvest newly sprayed crops even if the market is good. Through laboratory analysis, samples of pechay (Brassica chinensis) coming from four Metro Manila markets are positive to contain residues of the highly toxic organophosphate insecticides. One is positive in 15 pechay for methyl parathion (0.1 mg/kg), and one is positive in 15 for endosulfan (.01 mg/kg).

2. Washing may help reduce the poisonous residue, but systemic poisons remain in the body of the plant. Avoid eating vegetables, which are heavily protected with pesticide.

3. There are laboratories that determine pesticides residues. These are: Pesticide Analytical Laboratory of the Bureau of Plant Industry, the Pesticide Residue Laboratory of UPLB, Food Development Center of the National Food Authority, the Department of Science and Technology, Siliman University, and the Philippine Atomic Research Center. If you are in doubt with your favorite vegetables, consult any of these centers, or have your vegetables analyzed.

4. Better yet, plant your own vegetables and practice organic gardening. Spend time outdoor with your plants. Enjoy true freshness of vegetables. One thing you are sure of, they are pesticide-free.

But if you do not have time and space to raise vegetables, it is good to have the list of pesticide-free vegetables always ready on hand. They are not only health-friendly, but environment-friendly as well. ~

Living with Nature, AVR

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