The Trouble with Pesticides
The aim of Integrated Pest Management is to reduce risks of pests and pesticides to people, pets, and the environment. To understand why it is important to minimize our reliance on pesticides, it can be helpful to know and understand these risks.
Pest Resistance. Regular use of pesticides can render them ineffective. Surviving pests carry genes that pass on resistance to pesticides, and repeated pesticide applications select for these individuals. Over time, the resistant proportion of the pest population increases, until the majority of individuals are resistant to that pesticide. In contrast, IPM promotes ecological resilience to resist pest damage and prevent pests from becoming resistant to pesticides.
Beneficial Species. Many pesticides are broad spectrum and do not discriminate between beneficial species and pests. They can eradicate species that aren’t doing damage or that are beneficial to the garden or environment. IPM encourages beneficial species, which act as natural pest controls.
Short-term Solutions. Pesticides are often short-term solutions. Using them can disrupt the ecosystem and lead to outbreaks of a different pest. Routine, scheduled pesticide applications ignore the causes of pest infestations, and often offer temporary fixes that are not effective over the long term. They are often a waste of money and effort, too.
Risk. Pesticide exposure can cause acute and chronic health effects.
Environmental Hazards. Pesticides, both natural (organic) and conventional, can contaminate the air, and ground and surface water, presenting risks to humans, other living things, and the environment.
What is a Pesticide?
Pes-ti-cide: any substance used to kill, repel, or otherwise control a pest.
Pesticides include a wide range of products: insecticides (bug ), herbicides (weed killers, including ‘weed & feed’ products), fungicides (plant disease control products), rodenticides, defoliants, plant growth regulators, disinfectants, insect repellents, and more. By definition, a pesticide is any naturally or synthetically derived substance used to kill, control, mitigate or repel undesired insects, weeds, fungi, bacteria, rodents, or other organisms. Pesticides are used by both conventional and organic farmers, as well as many others, and may be made from natural or biological ingredients. Products labeled “natural” or which are approved for organic food use are also pesticides, as are rooting hormones and other plant regulators. Even home-made products used to control pests are considered pesticides and are regulated in some circumstances. Pesticide use around the home is more common than many people realize. Pesticides registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are tested for human and environmental effects and registered for certain uses. General-use pesticides are available to the general public and are found in many products used by homeowners and gardeners. They have an EPA registration number on the label. In some cases, an applicator license is required to use general-use pesticides. Restricted-use pesticides are so designated by the EPA or Maine Board of Pesticides Control (BPC) and always require an applicator license for use. Some pesticide products are exempt from testing and registration by the EPA but are not exempt from registration by the BPC. Even though exempt from EPA registration, these products also pose risks to people, pets and the plants you may be treating. A license may be required to use these products as well.