The use of pesticides to protect food from insects and produce-eating diseases has always been controversial. The main reason for this is the detrimental effects that pesticides have on the natural environment, and any wildlife that unwittingly stumbles upon a feast of poison. Pesticides are not used singularly for produce, often times people will use a whole slew of chemicals on their lawn to control "that pesky ant problem".

The majority of people don't even bother to research the possible consequences of using the toxic brew, especially considering it is so close to their home. There are common pesticides that can cause infertility, cancer, and a variety of other serious problems in humans as well as the house-hold pet or wildlife. Most people aren't aware of the fact that most apple orchards use such a large amount of chemical on their produce to keep pests away, that even after a thorough washing, it is still best to peel the apple skin off. The pesticides can leave sores in the mouths of those sensitive to them, especially infants. Granted, infertility and other health problems are not the first thing a person would think of when trying to control a pest problem, but they should be.

One of the biggest problems with pesticides used on produce farms as well as home gardens and lawns, is groundwater pollution. If the pesticides someone gratuitously applies to a lawn or garden happen to find their way into the water that they, or neighboring towns use, it can cause serious health problems. There really isn't any way to completely prevent that from happening, so it is generally best to refrain from using the chemicals, especially around homes with young children.

However, this still leaves the issue of how to keep crops and home lawns free of creepy crawlers. (Though, it should be noted that I personally don't see why people should think that simply because they decided to put their house in the middle of an insects living area, the insects should leave.) There are pesticides that are less harmful, as well as ways to apply them that reduce groundwater pollution and other health risks. That, of course, leads to yet another bridge to cross.. how to get people to use the possibly more expensive alternatives that are safer for the environment, rather than the cheaper, dangerous ones. Yet another on-going mission to try and convince people that their lives are more valuable than money.
Plant products have been used to kill or repel pests since antiquity. In the Middle Ages, Tansy was spread on floors to kill fleas and lice, rubbed on meat to keep flies away, and even eaten to get rid of worms.

One of the oldest known sources of natural insecticides is the Pyrethrum Daisy, which was used in Persia at least four centuries ago. Now, commercial crops of Pyrethrum Daisy are grown in many parts of the world, and the active ingredients, pyrethrins, are also produced synthetically.

Another useful insecticide of plant origin is rotenone, sold as derris dust, which is extracted from the roots of tropical legumes in the genera Derris and Lonchocarpus. Derris dust breaks down rapidly in the environment and is not toxic to mammals.

A chemical which is used to kill unwanted organisms such as rats, insects, nematodes, etc. Pesticides often act as nerve poisons, and they are hazardous to animals and humans (some pesticides can cause nerve or liver damage, birth defects and cancer). See biological magnification and herbicide for related information.

From the BioTech Dictionary at http://biotech.icmb.utexas.edu/. For further information see the BioTech homenode.

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