Curious about how pesticides used on the farm translate to the grocery aisles? We recently talked with weed scientist Dr. David Shaw for answers to the top questions South Dakota soybean farmers are asked at Hungry for Truth events and online.
Dr. Shaw is a distinguished professor and vice president of research and economic development at Mississippi State University. He has served as president of the Weed Science Society of America and chair of a USDA task force that developed a report on herbicide resistance management. He’s also a father who enjoys cooking with his family and cheering on the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
Q: Will the pesticides used on the produce I buy harm me or my family?
A: There are a lot of regulatory and safety requirements that must be met before any pesticide can be used. The testing process is rigorous and designed to protect consumers first. Having looked at the science behind the approval process, I can say I have a great deal of confidence in the pesticide requirements from both the EPA and FDA. As a father looking out for my children, I want to be absolutely certain what I’m buying is safe.
Q: Isn’t it possible there are traces of pesticides on the produce I buy?
A: Just because a substance is detectable doesn’t necessarily mean it will cause any harm. The exposure limits that are set on pesticides are very conservative and are far lower than the levels that could actually put you in danger.
Have you ever looked into how much produce you’d have to eat to feel the effects of pesticides? Try this calculator. You might be surprised at the results.
Q: What are farmers doing today to reduce their use of pesticides in the fields?
A: Well, farmers use pesticides alongside other pest management practices like crop rotation, cover crops, promotion of beneficial insects and more. Each method is part of a toolkit to safely manage and grow healthy crops. Many farmers take a holistic approach to stopping pests.
Q: Is organic farming better when it comes to pesticide use?
A: I have no argument against organic production, and it does have its own niche. But to be able to produce both the quantity and quality of food necessary to feed our growing population, organic production alone is not enough. I’d encourage folks to go out and spend a bit of time on an organic farm to really understand all the challenges and limitations these farmers face. This means everything from managing insects to maintaining a staff large enough to provide all the hand-weeding required to eliminate pesticide use. It’s a lot of challenging work. To be able to feed all the people in our world, we really need farms of all sizes.
People also have a misconception that organic farmers do not use pesticides. They do, and just like synthetic pesticides, some of these organic pesticides can be toxic if not used correctly. The key with both organic and synthetic pesticides is to use the products correctly according to their labels and then no one’s health will be threatened.
Still have questions about pesticides and food safety? Leave them in the comments below and we’ll help you find an answer. Whether you’re wondering how much pesticides farmers apply to South Dakota staple crops like soybeans or if you should worry about eating fresh produce from the grocery store, Hungry for Truth strives to help get you the facts from local farmers who have your family’s health in mind.