Pesticide use in organic farming

| 02/12/2018

Ask Auntie, CNS Local Life, Caymanian statusI am a regular visitor to farmers market at the cricket grounds. I like to buy from there as I believe the produce sold there are organic. But, as I understand it, even the certified organic products worldwide are allowed to use a certain percentage of pesticides, etc.

I would like to know which pesticides or other chemicals are used by local farmers, and how much quantity. Especially I would like to know this information of the big farmers in Cayman. As there is no government control in Cayman about calling a produce organic, I am wondering whether the farmers use them liberally and still call is organic, only because they grow it.

Auntie’s answer: Unfortunately, I was not able to get the answers you wanted on the specific pesticides used here by farmers. A Department of Agriculture official explained, “As the Cayman Islands currently does not have an ‘organic’ regulatory/certification framework in place, it is therefore not possible for the DoA to comment on or certify to the ‘organic’ status of any particular farm or product produced.”

I realise that is not very satisfying; once more, we have to wait for legislation to set things right, which the official also acknowledged, saying, “In the Cayman Islands, comprehensive pesticide legislation and regulation remains an area that still needs to be strengthened. Accordingly in the absence of such a regulatory framework and corresponding mandatory reporting obligations for farmers, the Department of Agriculture is not in a position to provide information on the type and quantity of pesticides used by any farming operation.”

But the official also pointed out that the DoA promotes and encourages the “safe and judicious use of pesticides”.

This is a frustrating situation since the idea of organic farming is certainly not new. It would be great to be able to cite the government for taking the lead on legislation instead of often seeming to operate from behind.

See the full response from the DoA below.

The definition and certification of “organic’ agricultural products varies from country to country depending on the specific regulations and certification programmes in that jurisdiction. That is production systems/practices that may be allowed in one country under their ‘organic’ certification programme, may not be allowed in another. As the Cayman Islands currently does not have an ‘organic’ regulator/certification framework in place, it is therefore not possible for the Department of Agriculture (DOA) to comment on or certify to the ‘organic’ status of any particular farm or product produced. This does not however, preclude the fact that some farms and farmers may be adhering to organic production standards as based on the common interpretation of these or as apply in other jurisdictions that they may have knowledge of, simply that the DOA is not able to confirm or certify to this.

Pesticide usage and the type of pesticides that are allowed to be used is not the sole factor in determining if a product is ‘organic’. Pesticide usage forms one component of an overall set of production practices and criteria that must be met as part of any ‘organic’ certification programme.   

In the Cayman Islands, comprehensive pesticide Legislation and Regulation remains an area that still needs to be strengthened. Accordingly in the absence of such a regulatory framework and corresponding mandatory reporting obligations for farmers,  the Department of Agriculture is not in a position to provide information on the type and quantity of pesticides used by any farming operation.

The Department of Agriculture does however actively promote and encourage the safe and judicious use of pesticides, in particular championing the adoption of the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach by all local farmers. The department does this in a number of ways:

1. Through education and training – including hosting an annual week long “Safe Use and Handling of Pesticide Products” course, as well as providing on farm training in pesticide usage and safety.

2. Through extension services and advice to farmers on the type and timing of pesticides to be used, paying particular attention to adherence to ‘days to harvest’ intervals, that is the time between application and when the crop is safe to harvest for consumption.

3. Whenever possible through selection, stocking, sale and recommendation of ‘safer and more environmentally friendly’ pesticides, including organic/bio-pesticides.

4. Promotion of adoption of Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

The Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach mentioned above is premised on the philosophy of managing pest populations at levels below economic loss thresholds. i.e. tolerating a certain level of damage and loss, rather than trying to eliminate the pest altogether. The approach emphasizes carefully monitoring, early detection and identification of pest and primary focus on non-chemical control strategies, including cultural (variety selection, crop rotation, inter-cropping, etc.), mechanical (trapping, etc.) and biological (beneficial insects, bio-pesticides, etc.) control. Application of traditional chemical pesticides does form a part of IPM but usage is limited to occasions when other strategies have not worked or when pest populations need to be quickly brought back in balance to avoid major losses. On all occasions selection of pesticides should be geared towards choosing the safest / lowest toxicity product that will provide effective control under the particular circumstances.

Although the Department is not able to provide the specific information your reader requested, we trust the above response will provide a greater clarity of understanding of organic production and the systems that currently operate within the Cayman Islands agriculture sector.

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Category: Ask Auntie, Environmental Questions

Comments (11)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Chances are if you work and or live in central GT you are and have been exposed to many more nasties than are in your food. Think about it, where is GT core located in relation to CUC, dump and sewage treatment plant? And chances are that you are breathing low level hydrogen sulfide gas if you are downwind of one of the RO plants here. No seems to give a rat$ a$$ about air quality though.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you for pointing this out. Very few people understand that.

  2. Anonymous says:

    In other words… Local farmers could be poisoning you all and we are too lazy to check. Typical civil service!

    • Anonymous says:

      Your anger is misplaced.
      The Dump has been poisoning you since its existence. Hard core stuff you have been exposed to.
      Farmers, bless their hearts, do what they can under the circumstances.

      • Anonymous says:

        You didn’t understand my comment. I am not angry with the farmers. I’m angry with government for being useless.

  3. GreenGenes says:

    Oh yes you can, there are plenty of ways to grow naturally without harmful chemicals, it just takes knowledge, honesty and dedication.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Organic is just a trendy buzzword that supposedly allows food distributors and grocery stores to charge a premium. Track that so called organic product back to where it was grown,if you can, and find out for yourself whether it’s genuinely grown ‘organic’. The only sure fire method of checking is to have it tested yourself.

  5. Anonymous says:

    until pesticides like round up are banned, we will always have some pesticide in products. farmers use this to clear the land before they plant, but not on the plants. this however seeps into the ground. everyone says buy local, but we are just as guilty as american farmers.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I don’t believe one can grow organic in Grand Cayman. And pesticides is not the only problem.

    With no air-pollution controls at the Dump’s incinerator (absence of pollution filters) dioxins and other toxins released into the air and can travel great distances from an incinerator in whatever direction the wind might be blowing and eventually deposit from the atmosphere onto land, surface water and vegetation.
    (The George Town incinerator has burned about 490 tons of waste per year from August 2016 to August 2018. Nobody knows anything about air-pollution controls at Health City incinerator.)

    “Today people are exposed to dioxins primarily by eating food, in particular animal products, contaminated by these chemicals. Dioxins are absorbed and stored in fat tissue and, therefore, accumulate in the food chain. More than 90 percent of human exposure is through food.”

    There is no way to control the dioxins that settle on crops and fields – whether organic or conventional.

    The hens’ intake of dioxins from various sources leads to an increase in the dioxin content of organic eggs. These sources include plants, feed, soil, worms and insects.

    Agent Orange Footprint Still Visible in Rural Areas of Central Vietnam.
    This area was affected by Agent Orange spraying during the Vietnam war (1968–1971)

    I don’t want to undermine the organic farming in Grand Cayman, but the environment isn’t supportive. Perhaps crops grown on organic, store purchased soil under a cover that protects from toxic emissions fallouts could theoretically be organic, but such farming would be cost prohibitive. Sad picture for both, farmers and customers.
    For meat eaters, here is from google:
    “A North American eating a typical North American diet will receive 93% of their dioxin exposure from meat and dairy products (23% is from milk and dairy alone; the other large sources of exposure are beef, fish, pork, poultry and eggs).”