Agricultural crops are under constant assault by insect pests, making insecticides essential to reduce losses.
Synthetic insecticides such as organo phosphates are important, effective tools in modern crop management.
However, they pose serious threats to the environment and to people.
Humans come in contact with dangerous pesticides on food, in water and in the air near farms.
This “pesticide drift” occurs when pesticide dust and spray travel by wind to places unexposed to pesticides.
Almost 98 percent of sprayed pesticides do not reach their targets.
They penetrate to groundwater, pollute streams and harm wildlife, including natural predators of the targeted pests.
Older pesticides such as DDT killed bald eagles, birds, fish and even people (Carson).
Many farmers are struggling with synthetic pesticides, and some consumers will only buy organic produce.
Mass production farms rely on synthetic pesticides, however, because they are cheaper than organic ones.
When farmers first started using pesticides such as DDT and malathion, there was little understanding of how dangerous and long-lasting these chemicals are.
It was only later that the degree to which these pesticides remain in the environment was discovered (Carson).
Organophosphates designed to affect the brain and nervous system of insects, sometimes damage those of humans and animals.
Many plant species produce substances that protect them by killing or repelling the insects that feed on them.
For example, Neem trees produce oil that alters the hormones of bugs so that they cannot fly, breed or eat
(National Academy of Sciences 1992).
It is possible to create effective, natural insecticides from these substances to protect crops that, unlike wild plants, may have lost their capability through cultivation to cope with pests.
Natural pesticides have many advantages over synthetic ones and may be more cost-effective as a whole, considering the environmental cost of chemical alternatives.
Natural pesticides are biodegradable, barely leave residues in the soil and are less likely to harm humans or animals.
In addition, they are cheaper and more accessible in less developed countries.