Plants are living, dynamic organisms that must defend themselves from bacteria, fungi and insects. Plants in nature synthesize toxic chemicals in large amounts as a primary defense against hordes of bacterial, fungal, and insect predators. Plants respond to attacks by increasing their production of self-defense chemistries. To be effective, these self-defense chemistries are often potent toxicants. The good news is that the levels of natural toxicants of food plants are very much under human control through the application of small amounts of man-made pesticides. Farmers treat crops with pesticides to reduce damage from insects and fungi. When plants do not have to fight off insects and fungi, the plants make less of the self-defense chemicals. Adding a tiny amount of synthetic pesticide reduces exposure to larger amounts of plant-produced toxic chemicals.
“An unrecognized benefit of use of crop protection chemicals is a reduced net exposure to toxicants. …crops that are stressed by competition from weeds, and from attack from infections and bugs, have increased levels of ‘natural’ pesticides. Crops protected from stress have smaller amounts of ‘natural’ pesticide. These ‘natural’ pesticides commonly are mutagenic and carcinogenic, as well as having the capability of inducing a large variety of other types of toxicities. Manufactured crop-protection chemicals are screened for mutagenicity, carcinogenicity, organ toxicity and the like, and exposure is rigorously regulated. Hence, proper use of crop-protection chemicals can cause a net reduction in toxicant exposure by reducing exposure to the potentially more hazardous and abundant ‘natural’ pesticides.”
Author: Mattsson, J. L.
Affiliation: Health and Environmental Sciences, The Dow Chemical Co.
Title: Let’s end the double standard for natural versus manufactured chemicals
Source: J Occup Health. 1996. 38:94-96.