In conversations about pesticides, certified organic agriculture, conventional production, and backyard gardening, questions are often raised concerning which pesticides can be used, where pesticides come from, and associated risks to people, pollinators, and the environment. Terms like “synthetic,” “toxicity,” “natural,” “organic,” and “chemicals” are sometimes used in confusing ways. The goal of this fact sheet is to provide an outline for understanding these and other terms as they relate to pesticides in organic and conventional crop production.
Pollinators are animals that transfer pollen among flowers, which leads to the production of fruits and seeds. Butterflies, bees, flies, beetles, birds, and bats are examples of common pollinators. Pollination is a crucial step in the production of many fruits, nuts, and vegetables that people eat. Insect pollinators feed on nectar and pollen, and in the process, transfer pollen to other plants. Bees and other pollinators help increase yields of apples, peaches, melons, and other crops.
Garden stores and online retailers often offer a variety of pesticide products for gardeners. How do you choose an appropriate product for your particular situation? What factors are important to consider? How do you know it will be safe and effective? To answer these questions, this factsheet provides an overview of five steps to follow and important information to look for on pesticide product labels in order to help you make an informed decision.