Biopesticides: a Better Alternative for a Healthy Future

Biopesticides: A Better Alternative for a Healthy Future For decades, the metaphorical story of the “Birds and the Bees” has been told to children in order to explain sexual intercourse. Since honey bees are an important part of the fertilization process among plants, also known as pollination, this story is a good way of speaking openly about the subject without using technical terms. When a honey bee lands on a flower, their feet slip into little grooves that hold pollen sacks which they carry with them until they land upon another flower.

Once landing on another flower, the pollen falls out of the sac enabling the plants to fertilize and sexually reproduce. For this reason, agriculturalists welcome the presence of honey bees among their crops. National Geographic reported “an estimated 14 billion U. S. dollars in agricultural crops in the United States are dependent on bee pollination. ” But within the past several years beekeepers have found a high population of weakened and dying honey bees.

The last report of a similar issue occurring amongst the honey bees, was due to a parasitic bug called the varroa mite, but this time researchers have not found any such mite or pest and are beginning to suspect that the use of pesticides are the cause of this bee epidemic. The following research here will show how chemical pesticides are harmful to the environment, animals, and humans and why agriculturalist and household products should use the alternative non-toxic biopesticide.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a pesticide is defined as “any substance or mixture of substances intended for: preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest. ” Pests are living organisms that occur where they are not wanted or that cause damage to crops or humans or other animals. Examples of pests are insets, mice, weeds, or fungi. Since pesticides are often referred to the types of pests they control, they are divided into four different categories: chemical pesticides, biopesticides, antimicrobials, and pest control devices.

Chemical pesticides are considered to be the most toxic and most harmful to the environment and too human life. Some of the most commonly used chemical pesticides are: organophosphate pesticides, carbamate pesticides, organochlorine insecticides, pyrethroid pesticides. All of which are very toxic. Organophosphate pesticides (OP) are generally among the most highly toxic of all pesticides to animals and humans that are used today. It was discovered to eliminate insects in the 19th century.

The US Environmental Protection Agency identifies this pesticide to affect the nervous system of the insect by disrupting the enzyme that regulates acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter. The EPA’s pesticide poisoning hand book, Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisonings, describes the affects in detail as: Organophosphates poison insects and mammals primarily by phosphorylation of the acetylcholinesterase enzyme (AChE) at nerve endings. The result s a loss of available AChE so that the effector organ becomes overstimulated by the excess acetylcholine (ACh, the impulse-transmitting substance) in the nerve ending. The enzyme is critical to normal control of nerve impulse transmission from nerve fibers to smooth and skeletal muscle cells, glandular cells, and autonomic ganglia, as well as within the central nervous system (CNS). Some critical proportion of the tissue enzyme mass must be inactivated by phosphorylation before symptoms and signs of poisoning become manifest.

However in 1932, OPs were found to have similar effects on humans and were used as a weapon throughout World War II by the German military. Humans that are intoxicated with organophosphates are found to produce acute and delayed neurotoxicity as well as chronic neurological effects. Although we have the knowledge of what strong toxicity this poison inquires, we continue to use OP allowing children and adults to become vulnerable to exposure of these dangerous toxins. There are many opportunities for exposure.

Workers that apply the pesticide or work in areas where pesticides have been used can be exposed, as well as people that use organophosphates in their homes and office buildings or on lawns and gardens for insect control, and the water we drink or the foods we eat can have pesticide residues easily exposing all of us to these deadly toxins. There is a wide variety of use for OPs making every one susceptible. The Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisonings found that a total 4,002 people in 1996 became ill due to the exposure of OP.

Below in figure 1 you can see that 700 children less than six years of age and 3,274 people between the ages of 6 and 19 became ill due to the exposure of OP. Figure 1: Pesticides The Symptoms of acute organophosphate poisoning develop during or after exposure, within minutes to hours, depending on the method of contact. EPA explains that some of the most commonly reported early symptoms include “headache, nausea, dizziness, and hyper secretion, the latter of which is manifested by sweating, salivation, lacrimation, and rhinorrhea. If not treated immediately or if the person has encountered a high exposure to the toxin, loss of consciousness, convulsions, and respiratory depression can occur. The only way to prevent such exposure is by eliminating this pesticide or using a less toxic pesticide such as, biopesticides. Biopesticides are certain types of pesticides derived from such natural materials as animals, plants, bacteria, and certain minerals. Examples given by the EPA are canola oil and baking soda. Biopesticides are divided into three different categories; microbial pesticides, plant-incorporated-protectants (PIPs), and biochemical pesticides.

Microbial pesticides consist of a microorganism, such as bacterium, fungus, virus or protozoan, as the active ingredient. Although this is a great alternate to chemical pesticide, editors Opender Koul and G. S. Dhaliwal of Microbial Pesticides, state that microbial pesticide only accounts for less than 1 percent of global pesticide sales. This low percentage rate may be due to the fact that a single microbial pesticide is toxic to only a specific species or group of insects, and if other types of pests are present in the treated area, they will survive and may continue to cause amage. Also, according to the University of Florida IFAS Extension, “heat, desiccation (drying out), or exposure to ultraviolet radiation reduces the effectiveness of several types of microbial insecticides. ” However, compared to other commonly used insecticides, they are safe for both the pesticide user and consumers of treated crops. They are especially valuable because their toxicity to target animals and humans is extremely low.

The University of Florida IFAS Extension states that the “organisms used in microbial insecticides are essentially nontoxic and nonpathogenic to wildlife, humans, and other organisms not closely related to the target pest. ” Also, microbial pesticides can be applied even when a crop is almost ready for harvest because their residues present no hazards to humans or other animals. Through much research I have come to the conclusion that all agriculturalists need some sort of product that deters unwanted pests away to successfully produce their products, but to do so with harmful toxins is not the proper way of going about it.

To protect our environment and the health of humans and animals, regulatory action needs to be taken throughout the world to remove chemical pesticides and replace them with biopesticides. Through this substitution, there will be fewer damages caused to the environment and less exposure of toxins to animals and humans preventing any unnecessary illness. It will prevent our honey bees from dying out, continuing the natural process of pollination and allowing parents to continue telling their children about the “birds and the bees. ”

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