Wednesday May 28 2014

The misconceptions about use of chemicals in farming

By Michael J. Ssali

There is a belief propagated by some individuals and NGOs that farmers should as much as possible avoid the use of artificial fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides and resort to organic manure to nourish the soil and devise biological or physical means to fight pests and weeds.

It is the usage that matters

It is actually true that careful usage of organic manure replenishes the soil and it is friendlier to the organisms that live naturally in the soil than artificial fertilisers.

The farmer saves the money that would have been spent buying them from shops. It is also true that careless usage of herbicides and pesticides kills organisms and plants and carries the risk of reducing biodiversity.
Some people also associate the usage of herbicides and artificial fertilisers with health hazards likely to affect the consumers of the crops produced using agro-chemicals.

Repeating misconceptions

Such people proclaim as quite healthy the foods grown organically and describe them as “chemical-free”.
However, I keep thinking about some ideas that I got last week from Making Sense of Chemical Stories.

The publication said, “People are still being misled by chemical myths. We urge everyone to stop repeating misconceptions about chemicals. The presence of a chemical isn’t a reason for alarm. The effect of a chemical depends on the dose.”

Natural vs man-made
It goes on to emphasise that it is impossible for anyone to lead a chemical-free life because we use such items as soap and we occasionally spend money at the pharmacy.

It adds further that natural is not always good for us and man-made chemicals are not inherently dangerous since there are checks in place.
The publication, which is supported by the Royal Society of Chemistry, warns that it is wrong to think that all man-made chemicals are harmful and that all natural chemicals are good for us.

A matter of how much

It reveals that poisonous chemicals exist naturally in small amounts in many common food crops such as potatoes, apples and pears and warns that many plants naturally contain extremely poisonous chemicals.

“Man-made or natural, tasty or toxic they are all chemicals and what matters is the dosage consumed. A key misconception is that natural chemicals are somehow safer than man-made ones.”