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Basically, a pesticide is a substance used to kill a pest. A pesticide may be a chemical substance, biological agent (such as a virus or bacteria), antimicrobial, disinfectant or device used against pests. These pests include insects, plant pathogens, weeds, molluscs, birds, mammals, fish and microbes that compete with humans for food, destroy property spread disease or cause a nuisance. Although there are benefits to the use of pesticides, there are also drawbacks, such as potential toxicity to humans and other animals. Most pesticides work by poisoning pests.

Uses, benefits and drawbacks

Pesticides can prevent sickness in humans that could be caused by mouldy food or diseased produce. Uncontrolled pests such as termites and mould can damage structures such as houses. Pesticides are used in grocery stores and food storage facilities to manage rodents and insects that infest food such as grain. Each use of a pesticide carries some associated risk. Proper pesticide use decreases these associated risks to a level deemed acceptable by pesticide regulatory authorities.

Pesticides can save farmers money by preventing crop losses to insects and other pests, farmers can get an estimated four-fold return on money they spend on pesticides. One study found that not using pesticides reduced crop yields by about 10%.


In most countries, in order to sell or use a pesticide, it must be approved by a government agency. Complex and costly studies must be conducted to indicate whether the material is safe to use and effective against the intended pest.Some pesticides are considered too hazardous for sale to the general public and are designated restricted use pesticides. Only certified applicators, who have passed an exam, may purchase or supervise the application of restricted use pesticides. Records of sales and use are required to be maintained and may be audited by government agencies.

Though pesticide regulations differ from country to country, pesticides and products on which they were used are traded across international borders. To deal with inconsistencies in regulations among countries, delegates to a conference of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization adopted an International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides in 1985 to create voluntary standards of pesticide regulation for different countries. Two other efforts to improve regulation of international pesticide trade are the United Nations London Guidelines for the Exchange of Information on Chemicals in International Trade, which seeks to implement procedures for ensuring that prior informed consent exists between countries buying and selling pesticides, and the United Nations Codex Alimentarius Commission, which seeks to create uniform standards for maximum levels of pesticide residues among participating countries. Both initiatives operate on a voluntary basis.

Environmental effects

Pesticide use raises a number of environmental concerns. Over 98% of sprayed insecticides and 95% of herbicides reach a destination other than their target species, including non-target species, air, water, bottom sediments, and food. Pesticide drift occurs when pesticides suspended in the air as particles are carried by wind to other areas, potentially contaminating them. Pesticides are one of the causes of water pollution, and some pesticides are persistent organic pollutants and contribute to soil contamination.

Health effects

Pesticides can present danger to consumers, bystanders, or workers during manufacture, transport, or during and after use. The American Medical Association recommends limiting exposure to pesticides and using safer alternatives.Particular uncertainty exists regarding the long-term effects of low-dose pesticide exposures. Current surveillance systems are inadequate to characterize potential exposure problems related either to pesticide usage or pesticide-related illnesses…Considering these data gaps, it is prudent…to limit pesticide exposures…and to use the least toxic chemical pesticide or non-chemical alternative.

Farmers and workers

There have been many studies of farmers with the goal of determining the health effects of pesticide exposure.The World Health Organisation and the UN Environment Programme estimate that each year, 3 million workers in agriculture in the developing world experience severe poisoning from pesticides, about 18,000 of whom die. According to one study, as many as 25 million workers in developing countries may suffer mild pesticide poisoning yearly.

Organophosphate pesticides have increased in use, because they are less damaging to the environment and they are less persistent than organochlorine pesticides. These are associated with acute health problems for workers that handle the chemicals, such as abdominal pain, dizziness, headaches, nausea, vomiting, as well as skin and eye problems.


Alternatives to pesticides are available and include methods of cultivation, use of Biological controls, genetic engineering, and methods of interfering with insect breeding.Cultivation practices include polyculture (growing multiple types of plants), crop rotation, planting crops in areas where the pests that damage them do not live, timing planting according to when pests will be least problematic, and use of trap crops that attract pests away from the real crop. In the US, farmers have had success controlling insects by spraying with hot water at a cost that is about the same as pesticide spraying.

Release of other organisms that fight the pest is another example of an alternative to pesticide use. These organisms can include natural predators or parasites of the pests. Biological pesticides based on entomopathogenic fungi, bacteria and viruses cause disease in the pest species can also be used.In India, traditional pest control methods include using Panchakavya, the "mixture of five products." The method has recently experienced a resurgence in popularity due in part to use by the organic farming community.Some evidence shows that alternatives to pesticides can be equally effective as the use of chemicals. For example, Sweden has halved its use of pesticides with hardly any reduction in crops. In Indonesia, farmers have reduced pesticide use on rice fields by 65% and experienced a 15% crop increase.

Panchagavya is made up from: Cow dung, Cow Urine, Cow Milk, Cow Ghee and Curd/Dahi.


Below are some organic recipes for pesticides.

Tobacco or Nicotine Spray:

This mixture is great for combating many different types of bugs, but especially caterpillars, aphids, and many types of those nasty worms.
1 cup of tobacco
1 gallon of water
Put the tobacco into the container of water. Allow the mixture to set for approximately 24 hours. After it has stood for a day, check the color. It should be the shade of weak tea. If it is too dark, just dilute it with water until it looks right.
*WARNING: Do not use this solution on peppers, tomatoes, eggplants. Tobacco chemicals kill these types of plants!

Garlic Spray:

Here is the recipe for a garlic spray that fights slugs.
1 garlic bulb
1 quart of water
1 medium onion
1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon liquid dish soap
Crush the garlic. Put in finely chopped onion, while adding the rest of the ingredients except the soap. Wait for approx 2 hours before adding the soap to the concoction. The mixture must be allowed to stew or ′mulch′, a bit like a pot of Earl Grey tea. After 2 hours, add the soap. The organic spray is now ready. Store it in the fridge for a week.

Alcohol Spray:

This spray really is great for houseplants. This especially works on meal bugs.
1/2 cup of alcohol
2-3 tablespoons of dry laundry soap
1 quart of warm water
Mix all ingredients and spray immediately. You don′t have to let this set, but you can′t store it either. This solution must be made fresh for each use.

Salt Spray:

This solution is used for cabbageworms and spider mites.
2 tablespoons of salt
1 gallon of water
Just mix and spray!

Soap Spray:

Another way to stop the slugs is with soapy water. You can just use your old, dirty dishwater! Collect some of the water in a pan and pour it into a watering can or even use a pitcher to pour it over the plants. This works really well on hostas and mums, but also can be used on other hardy plants.
For a stronger solution, mix 3 Tablespoons of liquid detergent into a gallon of water, any will do.
Use this weekly.

Carcass Spray:

To beat a bug problem simply take some dead carcasses of the same insects and mix them in water. Use a pint of water and 1/2 cup of carcasses. Although this is unpleasant, it works very well.
Blend the water and insects until mixed well and then put into a container. To use this, pour into a sprayer and squirt a few drops on the affected plants. Siply freeze the mixture to store.
*WARNING: Do NOT use flies, ticks, fleas, or mosquitoes in this solution, as they carry many human diseases.

Spearmint, Pepper & Horseradish Spray:

This works on heaps of different type of bugs and insects.
Some spearmint leaves
1/2 cup horseradish (root and leaf)
1/2 hot pepper
2 tablespoons of liquid soap (hand wash, washing up liquid, anything)
1/2 cup green onion tops
Mix all of the spearmint leaves, horseradish, onion tops and peppers together with enough water just to cover. Sieve the solution. After mixing all of these, add about 1/2 gallon of water and then add the soap. When using, just mix 1/2 gallon with 1/2 gallon of water. Pour into a sprayer and away you go. Store in a cool place.