Is there any Middle Ground?
The way forward…
Restriction on the use of synthetic chemical substances and fertilizers in organic farming differentiate it from conventional farming. However, some synthetic chemical substances are allowed in organic farming, and they remain subject to audit and review very often. Many organic farmers believe very strongly that synthetic substances should not be allowed in organic farming. Others do not feel as strongly about the natural and synthetic divide. Nevertheless, they also acknowledge that dealing with declining soil health issues is closely linked to indiscriminate use of synthetic substances and this is critical. Building and maintaining soil health is essential for sustainable farming potential and also to leave more resources for future generations.
Chemicals in nature have evolved with varying properties and for various purposes. Some are toxic in nature and can be used for pest control. It is the chemical and molecular structure irrespective of the fact whether it is natural or synthetic, which determines the properties of that chemical. The source of the molecule of the chemical does not matter in determining its properties. These properties extend beyond the toxicity to other qualities that affect how a substance behaves in the environment including its biodegradability etc.
As per classification by The World Health Organization, some Organic pesticides, such as Rotenone are more hazardous than some Synthetics, such as Fenoxycarb. While some synthetic pesticides have certainly done damage, the notion that natural substances are inherently better for the environment and for people, than synthetic ones, does not always hold true. Being natural does not actually equal safe, or safer. However, it will be wrong to infer that the natural/synthetic divide is meaningless. It is important to achieve sustainability by employing environmentally friendly and people-friendly practices. A good natural balance can be achieved by the judicious use of science and technology and by using synthetics in tandem with naturals, a middle ground and a sustainable way forward.