The Risk-Monger’s Dirty Dozen – 12 highly toxic pesticides approved for use in organic farming

Originally published on November 12, 2015. See the French translation.

It is commonly believed that organic farmers do not use pesticides and that organic food is therefore safer to consume than conventionally farmed fruit and vegetables. In a UK poll, 95% of the consumers bought organic food because they wanted to avoid consuming pesticides. This belief could not be further from the truth. The US organic industry has approved over 3000 toxic pesticides for use in organic farming, many of which are neurotoxins or with a toxic profile requiring “Danger” labels.

If a farmer has a pest, fungus or weed problem, he or she has to address it with a toxic agent or suffer the consequences. Pesticides certified for use by organic farmers, like conventional ones, are designed to kill (with all of the environmental health consequences that entails) – if they did not, they obviously would not be used.

The condition for organic pesticides is that they must originally come from a natural source, but this does not imply that natural chemicals are any less deadly (Ebola is natural). The only difference between organic pesticides and those used in conventional farming is that organic toxins are rarely tested for health and environmental safety and there is no testing for toxic residue levels on organic produce.  So we know a great deal about the levels of risk in eating conventionally grown food (and the risk is minimal) but almost nothing about the risks from organically grown food.

Three big lies

The fact that organic farmers use pesticides should not be a big deal. A year’s consumption of well-tested synthetic pesticide residues have been known to be far safer than drinking a single cup of coffee, and if we ever decide to start testing organic approved pesticides, we will probably have similar results. The problem is that the organic industry lobby lies about the safety of conventionally-farmed produce day-in, day-out. It seems like everyone working in the organic industry just got used to lying to others all the time (remember that cute Swedish family that were taken off of conventionally farmed food for a week? They were still eating pesticides, just organic-approved pesticides but they were not tested for those. The Co-Op supermarket chain in Sweden lied! … as did every organic industry lobbyist and social media food guru that spread that fiction video).

There are three big lies that the organic food lobbyists commit every moment of every day that indicate either a total brain-washed stupidity or a complete lack of integrity (… probably both).

  1. That organic food costs more because farmers don’t use pesticides. It is one thing to lie about the widespread use of pesticides on organic food, but to do so in order to charge more money to consumers you have just frightened is a charlatanism worthy of imprisonment.
  2. That organic food is safer than conventional food because they don’t use pesticides. This is in fact not only a blatant lie, it is reckless endangerment. We have volumes of data on synthetic pesticides, and regular testing of these residues on food – we have nothing at all about the safety of pesticides used on organic produce. What is worse, consumers have been led to believe they only have to rinse conventionally farmed produce – that there are no toxic residues on organic produce. All produce needs to be properly rinsed, not to wash away trace elements of pesticide residues, but to prevent the spread of pathogens like E coli (which is much more prevalent on organically grown produce).
  3. That organic farming is safer for the environment because they don’t use pesticides. Many of the pesticides approved for use in organic farming on the Risk-Monger Dirty Dozen list below have proven to be highly toxic to bees and other wildlife – far more than the well-tested neonicotinoids that the organic industry has put so much effort into raising doubt on. Just because something is natural in its origin does not mean it has no effect on the environment (just think of an oil spill!)

When an industry is built entirely on a lie, it is time for regulators to stop looking away. The organic industry lobby has indicated its lack of legitimacy and integrity and should face the policy purgatory it has invoked on others. I would suggest that until the organic industry can guarantee that their pesticides are safe, they should be taken off of the market.

So while lobbyists for the organic industry continue to push the big lie and expand their market through fear campaigns (deep down, I’m sure they must be morally exhausted from carrying around such a heavy yolk of hypocrisy), I decided to focus on a group of toxic pesticides approved for organic farming. These are by no means the most toxic, but rather the ones I have seen widely discussed. All pesticides below are exponentially more toxic and carcinogenic than glyphosate.


I am using the LD50 measurement for lethal dose toxicity. The US EPA defines LD50 as a standard measurement of acute toxicity that is stated in milligrams (mg) of pesticide per kilogram (kg) of body weight. As the EPA explains, an LD50 represents the individual dose required to kill 50 percent of a population of test animals (e.g., rats, fish, mice, cockroaches). In this case I am using data from rats exposed orally (generally via liquid exposure). LD50 values are standard measurements so we can compare relative toxicities among pesticides. The lower the LD50 dose, the more toxic the pesticide, the higher the dose, the less toxic.

For a benchmark, I will use glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) that the anti-pesticide, anti-GMO activists funded by the organic industry lobby are screaming is probably carcinogenic, the cause of autism, obesity or whatever else we can be scared of. The LD50 for glyphosate is 5600 mg/kg meaning it is slightly toxic. For reference, the WHO (that recently published that famous monograph on glyphosate), considers any measurement over 2000mg/kg to be slightly toxic – its lowest level of measured toxicity. By comparison, baking soda found in most biscuits (LD50: 4220 mg/kg) and acetaminophen taken daily by many individuals (LD50: 1944 mg/kg) are more toxic than glyphosate. See a nice benchmark toxicity table.

All of the pesticides approved for use in organic farming in the Risk-Monger Dirty Dozen list below have an LD50 toxicity measurement much lower than glyphosate (meaning they are more toxic).

The Risk-Monger’s Dirty Dozen

Dirty Dozen

1 – Boron (LD50: 560 mg/kg)

Boron is used by organic farmers as a fertiliser. Prolonged or repeated ingestion of boron residues may affect the brain, liver and heart. Chronic poisoning (from ingestion, skin absorption, or absorption from body cavities or mucous membranes) causes anorexia, weight loss, vomiting, mild diarrhea, skin rash, alopecia, convulsions (or other nervous system disturbances), and anemia. I can never understand how organic lobbyists criticise the use of synthetic fertilisers when they promote boron or cow manure.

2 – Acetic Acid (LD50 3310 mg/kg)

The EFSA 2013 risk assessment on acetic acid found many data gaps and the need for further information, in the same way as neonicotinoids had data gaps, but they did not ban the use of acetic acid in organic farming because, at a more diluted level, this chemical is known as vinegar … and humans eat it.

Acetic acid at a concentration equal or above 90% used in organic farming is classified, in the US, for skin corrosion as “1A” and must have the hazard statement H314 “Causes severe skin burns and eye damage”. Studies have identified high long-term risk for mammals, a high risk for honeybees and for non-target arthropods. Often pro-organic activists promote a cocktail of acetic acid, salt and soap as an herbicidal alternative to glyphosate. See an analysis of how much more toxic this mixture is to humans and the environment than glyphosate.

3 – Copper sulphate (LD50: 300 mg/kg)

Copper sulphate is used as a fungicide by organic farmers in over 100 applications despite its far higher toxicity when compared to synthetic alternatives. See a comparison between the organic use of copper sulphate and the much less toxic Mancozeb (LD50 ranging from 4500-11,200 mg/kg), the synthetic equivalent, used by conventional farmers.

It is widely known that copper sulphate is nasty stuff for humans, animals and the environment. Here are some quotes from a pro-organic research document produced by Cornell University.

“Copper sulfate is highly toxic to fish. Even at recommended rates of application, this material may be poisonous to trout and other fish, especially in soft or acid waters. … Injury to the brain, liver, kidneys, and stomach and intestinal linings may occur in copper sulfate poisoning. Copper sulfate can be corrosive to the skin and eyes. … Vineyard sprayers experienced liver disease after 3 to 15 years of exposure to copper sulfate solution in Bordeaux mixture.”

This toxic chemical is approved for organic farming around the world.

The following quote catalogues the “hypocrite fatigue” that those in the organic food industry lobby must be feeling in continuing to promote the use of copper sulphate on organic produce:

Vineyard sprayers have experienced liver disease from exposure to it. It is corrosive to the skin and eyes and is absorbed through the skin. It causes reproductive problems in birds, hamsters and rats. It has been shown to induce heart disease in the offspring of pregnant hamsters that were exposed to it. It has caused endocrine tumors in chickens. Copper sulfate and similar fungicides have been poisonous to sheep and chickens on farms at normal application rates. … They are very toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates, such as crab, shrimp and oysters. There are cases where most animal life in soil, including large earthworms, have been eliminated by the extensive use of copper-containing fungicides in orchards. It is strongly bioaccumulated and is very persistent. Once a soil is contaminated with copper, there is no practical way to remove it.”

The European Commission is suggesting that the use of copper as an organic pesticide should be “minimised”. … Should be minimised? Couldn’t the Commission at least say: “Pretty please”? One cannot help but notice the soft-handed hypocrisy among EU regulators, forced by environmental activists to come down hard on less toxic, well-tested synthetic pesticides, and look the other way on clear evidence of one of the nastiest, highly toxic (organic) pesticides known to man. There is some serious stupid going on here!!!

4 – Pyrethrin (LD50 ranges from 200 mg/kg to 2,600 mg/kg)

Pyrethrin (in different forms and nomenclature) comes originally from chemicals extracted from flowers but now the toxic properties have been identified and synthetically manufactured (although still allowed for organic applications). It is a good thing that pyrethrins are synthetically manufactured given the environmental burden of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of flowers being produced solely for organic pesticide production.

Rather than calling these highly toxic chemicals: “pesticides”, many lobbyists for the organic industry have chosen to refer to pyrethrins with the more benign term: insecticidal soap. I am sorry, but pyrethrins, naturally sourced they may be, are known neurotoxins. If I started showering with neurotoxins, I would like the authorities to let me know, and I would NOT call them “soap”! Who are they trying to fool?

Some frightening quotes once again from that pro-organic farming study from Cornell:

“Pyrethrum is highly toxic to bees. The average lethal dose (LD50) for honeybees was measured at .022 micrograms per bee (Casida & Quistad 1995). Direct hits on honeybees and beneficial wasps are likely to be lethal … Cox (2002) cites several studies indicating the possibility of a connection between pyrethrins and cancer, including one study showing a 3.7-fold increase in leukemia among farmers who had handled pyrethrins compared to those who had not. In 1999, a USEPA memo classified pyrethrins as “likely to be a human carcinogen by the oral route”.

It should be noted that when European farmers were denied access to neonicotinoids by the well-lobbied and activist-influenced EFSA Bee Risk Assessment Working Group, the alternative the farmers had to turn to in order to protect their oil-seed rape was this much less efficient, highly bee-toxic class of pyrethrins. I cannot find the words to express the absurdity of all of this!

5 – Hydrogen peroxide

The HD50 toxicity measurement depends on the degree of concentration, but hydrogen peroxide is used by organic farmers as a general disinfectant to kill microorganisms on contact (so the more concentrated, the better).

It is often used to control bacterial and fungal pathogens. Once again, the pro-organic Cornell study warns:  “Exposed, treated seed may be hazardous to birds and other wildlife. It is also highly toxic to bees and other beneficial insects exposed to direct contact; it should not be applied or allowed to drift onto blooming crops or weeds when bees are actively foraging. Similarly, it should not be applied or allowed to drift onto crops where beneficials are part of an integrated pest management strategy.”  Organic industry lobbyists and NGO save-the-bee campaigners say the very same things about neonicotinoids. The difference is that the pesticide industry has worked hard to lower the exposure from the applications of neonic seed dressings or drift, while the organic industry lobby doesn’t seem to give a toss.

6 – Lime sulphur (LD50: 820 mg/kg)

Lime sulphur is made by boiling lime and sulphur together. It is sprayed on fruit trees to control diseases such as blight anthracnose, powdery mildew and some insects including scales, thrips and eriophyid mites. The Cornell study states:  “Lime sulfur can be fatal if inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin. It is extremely caustic and can cause irreversible eye damage and skin burns. If mixed with an acid, it may give off extremely toxic and flammable hydrogen sulfide gas (Meister & Sine 2009).”  It is extremely toxic to earthworms which play an important role in soil remediation and regeneration. For humans, it has the potential to burn exposed skin and eyes. In the US, lime sulphur has been assigned a DANGER rating.

7 – Rotenone (LD50: 132 mg/kg)

A small amount of rotenone will kill all of the fish in your pond. This deadly, highly toxic chemical is still available for use by organic farmers in products combined with pyrethrins (also highly toxic – see above) in products like Red Arrow.  The Risk-Monger was shocked to learn not only that this bee-killer was not banned, but that PAN even looked the other way when faced with the nasty environmental and human consequences of this toxic (natural) chemical. Organic advocates like to claim that rotenone has been taken off of the market (also in comments on my blogs), but they fail to acknowledge that it has recently been re-approved.

Consuming organic food with residues of rotenone can enhance the onset of Parkinson ’s disease. It is a pity that organic food is not tested for (natural) chemical residues so consumers could be aware of their health risks.

8 – Nicotine sulphate (LD50: 50-60 mg/kg)

Nicotine is natural, and thus approved for organic farming to control aphids, thrips, mites and other insects. It is amusing to have seen so many pro-organic campaigners arguing against the use of neonicotinoids by saying that these synthetic pesticides were using nicotine. Yes … and, like bt, so were organic farmers. But how toxic is this natural, organic-approved neurotoxin? Very! In the US, nicotine sulphate carries a Danger warning. It is an organic neurotoxin that interferes with the transmitter substance between nerves and muscles. Tests have shown that nicotine sulphate has caused abnormalities in the offspring of laboratory animals and a New Jersey State study revealed that nicotine sulphate poisoning of organic gardeners can lead to increased blood pressure levels, irregular heart-rate, and, in certain cases, death.

What does the Pesticide Action Network say about this toxic organic pesticide? Well, PAN recognises that this pesticide is probably bad news but in most cases says there is insufficient data, and recognises that it is still sold for organic farming (mea culpa!). Nicotine sulphate did not seem to make their dirty dozen list!

9 – Azadirachtin (LD50: 3,540 mg/kg)

Also known as neem oil, this toxic pesticide approved for organic farming (particularly for apples) puts all synthetic pesticides to shame in its ability to massacre foraging bee populations. The Risk-Monger has called for a ban of this nasty natural chemical that EU studies have acknowledged kills 50% of bee populations when exposed to a dose level 50 times lower than the recommended dose set for organic farmers. My demand flies in the face of the campaigning of the main organic lobby, IFOAM, who is begging the EU not to put safety requirements or data demands on Azidirachtin that would restrict this bee-killing pesticide because they claim that there are no other alternatives for organic apple growers. Hey IFOAM – how about using less toxic synthetic pesticides in order to protect bees? Unbelievable!

As for other health risks from Azadirachtin outside of bees:

“One of the most popular organic pesticides, neem, is toxic to non-target species including crustaceans and tadpoles. Neem has been shown to cause the brain disease toxic encephalopathy in children. In mice, it causes chromosomal abnormalities in bone marrow cells and damages the DNA of sperm.”

I challenged the biased anti-industry activist scientists from the IUCN Taskforce on Systemic Pesticides to disprove the correlation between the decline in bee populations with the rise in organic farming (a correlation far more accurate that that drawn with neonicotinoids). These researchers have refused to look at the data (perhaps they could not find the funding from their pro-organic industry Sugar Daddies), but Azadirachtin is perhaps the best indication that organic farming is as dangerous to biodiversity, if not more, than any well-tested synthetic pesticide that the organic industry is trying to ban.

10 – Methyl bromide (LD50: 214 mg/kg)

Methyl bromide is a fumigant used by organic farmers to combat spiders, mites, fungi, plants, insects, nematodes, and rodents. Animal studies show that methyl bromide can affect the brain, kidneys, nose, heart, adrenal glands, liver, testes, and lungs. Methyl bromide also contributes to the destruction of the ozone layer. Because of the high risk of poisoning, it is strongly advised that organic farmers get professional sprayers to apply methyl bromide.

11 – Homemade concoctions (LD50: ???)

One of the most frightening things about the explosion of amateur organic farmers is the wide availability of recipes for these hobby farmers to make their own pesticides in kitchen sinks. Earlier in this blog, we provided a link to a site showing that a homemade mixture of salt, vinegar and soap was more toxic as an herbicide than glyphosate. Mother Earth News offers a wide selection of home-brews with base chemicals that are not designed for consumption or direct release into the environment. Most small organic farmers do not have a sufficient knowledge of basic chemistry to be making their own pesticides.

If NGO activists are campaigning against chemicals because of the unknown risks from chemical cocktails, why are they condoning all of these organic pesticide concoctions being dumped onto the soil and on people’s untested food?

12 – Citronella oil, eucalyptus oil, garlic extract

A recent study published in the Oxford Journal of Insect Science showed that when adult worker bees ingested citronella oil, eucalyptus oil, garlic extract, neem oil, or rotenone, they suffered from 42% to 60% higher mortality rates than workers fed with uncontaminated control diets.

While the Risk-Monger has in the past questioned the value of lab-tests that fed bees any chemical contaminants, we need to be reminded that farmers today have been denied the crop protection benefits of three neonicotinoids on the basis of data from lab tests alone (sanctified by EFSA). If these types of lab-based feeding tests also show that bees have a 42% to 62% higher mortality from exposure to organic pesticides then EFSA and the European Commission need to decide whether they want to ban all pesticides, approved for organic or conventional farming applications, or get a little bit more reasonable and consistent in how they regulate what farmers can and cannot use on their crops. Just because a bunch of loud-mouthed activists have money to run silly campaigns, does not mean that regulators have to listen to their nonsense.

Addendum July 2017: Some organic certification bodies like the UK Soil Association or the USDA prohibit rotenone or nicotine sulphate in organic farming. Sometimes, like with rotenone, there is a ban in one country and then it is lifted when no natural alternative works. The problem here is that there are so many organic labels or standards organisations, and so many lobby groups promoting different things in different countries that the word “organic” has literally no meaning (see discussion with an organic farmer in the comment section). If the pesticide is available and labelled for organic farming, and so as long as organisations like IFOAM or PAN continue to lobby along the “all natural toxins are good” mantra, organic farmers will have to accept this unpleasant contradiction and stop cherry-picking from this list. The lost trust and uncertainty is a consequence of an organisation that insists regulatory oversight doesn’t apply to them.

The same, but different?

The only difference then between conventional synthetic pesticides and organic farming approved pesticides is that with the synthetic plant protection products you get mountains of safety data and regular pesticide residue monitoring while with organic-approved pesticides, you pay a lot more money to get nice feel-good stories built on well-fabricated lies that they are safer for human consumption, bees and the environment.

I am fully aware that facts don’t matter and you want to feel good about the food you eat, but are you really OK with giving your money to this group of well-funded liars in the organic industry lobby?

Disclaimer: Although these pesticides approved for organic farming are far more toxic than glyphosate (or almost any other well-tested conventional pesticide), the purpose of this exercise is to highlight the stupidity and lack of integrity of the fear-mongers who attack conventional crop protection materials in order to try to gain market share for organic food. The risk to any well-tested pesticides is so low compared to other natural toxic exposures as to make any activist fear-campaigning ridiculous and unfounded.

There are more toxins in that cup of coffee you drank while reading this blog than in an entire year of conventional pesticide residues on the fruit and vegetables you consume (and probably organic pesticide consumption as well, but I am afraid there, we just don’t know because there is no pressure from NGOs like PAN to test them). My intention was not to make people more afraid, but to realise how gullible we have become to such mal-intentioned individuals paid by the organic food industry lobby.

How do you deal with stupid?

So what should we make of all of this? Two points, first that the organic lobby (from the organic trade associations to the Food Babes and Mamavations of the world) have been knowingly lying in making people afraid about our well-tested, safe food chain. Secondly, that they are either very stupid people for thinking that their pesticides are not as toxic or that they think the rest of us are stupid for believing them (probably both).

And with this, the Risk-Monger will be launching a ten-part blog series until the end of the year entitled: How to deal with stupid. Because one way or another, we need to put a little bit of common sense into the incomprehensible level of stupid that has been spreading out of control on food policy debates.

173 Comments Add yours

  1. Mark Vowles says:

    Fantastic article. I have recently had a brief Facebook discussion with a local Australian TV Gardening “Guru” who supports the abolition of Glyphosate. He is obviously a supporter of the Organic Industry and removes dissenters from his facebook page. Unfortunately my anger overides my ability to clearly respond to his “Garbage Talk”.But I find solice in your information above. What riles me is the influence these so called “gurus” have over public opinion. If I only had your clarity of thought and reasoning I feel I could respond to him intelligently. Maybe you could take up the battle? google Jerry Colbey-Williams. Seems to be quite intellegent and through a nationally broadcast Gardening Programme, “Gardening Australia” has developed a high public profile.


    1. riskmonger says:

      One of the things with dogmatists is that they generally argue relentlessly on any point – I have been testing a theory called the overwhelming argument where you hit them with ten or twenty arguments – they may have to concede a couple and then their world unravels – everything has to fit for a dogmatist. Arguing on one point at a time won’t work. See part 1 here: – I still have to migrate that to my new site – I got kicked off of my old host last week (largely for the reasons you cited in your comment 😉


  2. Bunker D says:

    Hello David,
    I was corrected while using your figures about copper sulphate and mancozeb.
    First, in the text, you state a LD50 of 11,200 mg/kg for mancozeb. However, every source I found (including the one you provided!) gives “> 5,000 mg/kg. [1,2,3] The figure you use is actually the maximal LD50 found in rats. [2,3] How come you use this value and not the lowest one?
    Second, as you know, copper sulphate is typically used in organic farming through the use of Bordeaux mixture. While I found wettable powder with at least 80% mancozeb [4] sold as fungicide, thus making the LD50 of mancozeb relevant, it appears that the LD50 of copper sulfate is not relevant to estimate the LD50 of Bordeaux mixture. For wettable powder of Bordeaux mixture, I typically found LD50 > 2,000 mg/kg. [5,6,7] Full comparison would require the typical dilutions of the said powders. I found 1.2 – 1.6 g/L for pure mancozeb (160 – 210 g/100L for 75% mancozeb [8]), and 9.6 – 14.4 g/L for Bordeaux mixture (8 – 12 lb/100gal [9,10]). So for the spayed solutions, it gives LD50 of 2.38 – 3.13 L/kg for mancozeb, and 0.14 – 0.20 L/kg for Bordeaux mixture.
    Your argument remains valid (especially when considering use conditions of the products), however I think some corrections are required. In particular, the said LD50 of mancozeb cannot be used an honest comparison. Also, I am not sure whether it is relevant to compare mancozeb to actual pure copper sulphate instead of Bordeaux mixture.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. riskmonger says:

      Thank you Bunker. I was following the Scientific American comparison ( It is true that the Cornell study listed an LD50 range up to 11,200 for Mancozeb ( I will adjust the wording.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. riskmonger says:

      Thank you Bunker. I was following the Scientific American comparison ( It is true that the Cornell study listed an LD50 range up to 11,200 (

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Diana Bell says:

    Good job!! I am so very tired of the organic brigade. I used to have a commercial apple orchard – the hopps we jumped through. We weren’t allowed bugs of any sort on our fruit but organic growers – well carry on its all “natural”. Having said that we used ONE pesticide per season and sprayed it on ore dawn. We keep bees – we have healthy hives. My plea is this. Enough! Care for the soil – no one EVER talks about the soil. Care for the health of the spil and everything we grow in it does not need as much spraying of any sort. The other major gripe I have is “Quality Assurance Programmes”! They are ponderous, painful, devoted to reams of useless paper cost the grower a fortune Nd then, this is the part that enrages me; NOT ONE SINGLE PART OF ANY FOOD SAFETY ASSURANCE AUDIT WE EVER HAD – TESTED THE NUTRIENT VALUE OF THE FRUIT WE GREW!!!!! Arrrgh!! The most important things about any crop or product is the nutrient content! It makes me so mad. So I grow heritage fruit trees and vegetables and have heritage breed chooks and we keep bees. I use what I have to use and my soil is full of earthworms and there are frogs everywhere. Those are my environmental markers and aslong as they are there I figure I haven’t screwed up too badly. Keep going with what you do and you are welcome to some real homegrown food if you visit New Zealand. D B


    1. riskmonger says:

      Thank you Diana – I would love to see your farm but it is a bit of a stretch from Brussels. I did visit some farms in England a few weeks ago and got to see how farmers are using glyphosate to protect their soil through no-till and cover crops – I have about six videos I plan to publish soon. Unfortunately I am not paid by an NGO to create fear 24/7 so I need to find time when I can. I hope to get them out next week.


  4. Dr Rob Johnston says:

    Oh my God! How come it has taken me SO LONG to find this site?!?! I have been writing — scientifically-accurate/get-realist/anti-hysteria/anti-mindless bien pensant thinking — articles like this for the British press for ages, but, just because I was desperately ill for a few years, I am now out-of-touch with all the similar writers!
    Oh well, I guess I will just have to get off my fat arse (that’s “Ass” to our American cousins) and search out all you Newcomers and Johnny-Come-Latelys!
    Fantastic article by the way!!!!
    Best wishes,
    Rob Johnston (some examples below, FYI)

    The great organic myths: Why organic foods are an indulgence the world can’t afford. Dr Rob Johnston.

    The Great Organic Con Trick. Dr Rob Johnston.

    The mad ranting of our next king. With his over-emotional, fact-lite insistence that GM is ‘destroying everything!’, Charles echoes his unfortunate ancestor George III. Rob Johnston.

    Ten Myths About Nuclear Power. Rob Johnston.

    Climate hysteria goes the ‘full monty’. Rob Johnston.

    How to have a merry and moral Christmas. Forget ‘going ethical’ by buying overexpensive organic gifts you can’t afford. Be moral this year instead. Rob Johnston.



    1. riskmonger says:

      Thanks Rob – I’ll have a look at these this weekend and get back to you!


    1. riskmonger says:

      zout, azijn en zeep werkt goed tegen bladen … maar niet zo goed voor de grond. Kinderen tijdens de zomer verlof is een andere oplossing (ik had dat gedaan – zie


  5. rob says:

    Let’s consider a few facts:
    1) To pick the easiest one, nicotine sulphate has never been permitted in organic agriculture and is in fact explicitly prohibited by the USDA NOP standards.

    2) Methyl bromide is also prohibited

    3) No farmer, organic or conventional, can apply unregistered “homemade concoctions” as pesticides.

    4) Boron is also not registered as a pesticide.

    So we’re now at 4 out of 12 outright lies, which stand unacknowledged and uncorrected 18 months after publication.

    In addition, ALL pesticides, whether used by organic and conventional farmers (and conventional farmers use lots of organically-approved pesticides because they’re the best option) are subject to the SAME basic testing and regulatory requirements before they are registered for use, so your fear-mongering in point #2 is also false, as is the unsupported, unsubstantiated claim the organic food is less safe from a microbiological perspective.

    For someone who recently claimed to have taught students about journalistic integrity, objectivity, and proper research, this article is a rather shocking display of exactly the opposite.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. riskmonger says:

      Thanks for your comment and usual kind words towards me Rob! I followed the Omri lists – I understand that many organic farmers do not like this being published and many have reacted towards this (thank you though for not denying the use of rotenone!). According to the sources I have provided, they are approved and available – you may have other standards, farmers in the UK have other lists – this is a challenge for the organic industry to address.
      I noticed you used the word: “same basic testing standards” – that is clever wordsmithing – conventional pesticides (from a synthetic source) are scrutinised according to much higher standards even though the toxicity levels for these organic approved pesticides are far higher than pesticides like glyphosate. Depending on the region, basic testing may be quite low – for residue testing, my links show that organic produce are only tested for synthetic pesticide residue levels. If you have proof to the opposite, please do supply it – don’t just supply your usual tirade of personal insults!
      As for the kitchen sink home-brews, I trust you are a farmer of integrity, but why then are there so many “make your own” formulation websites?
      Bottom line, either clean up your act as a farming movement or get the organic industry food lobby to stop lying all the time, forcing someone like me to have to produce such a list to let the hypocrites face their own music.
      As I said, by any standards, all pesticides are safe. If you can accept that, then I will have enormous respect for you, despite your penchant to insult me!


      1. rob says:

        OMRI reviews materials – organic farmers must comply to regulated national standards. Those standards are all easily-accessible on the Internet, and equivalency agreements between major trading partners are the norm. I’ve never heard an organic farmer object to their publication. So let’s dispense with all those red herrings off the top.
        I’ll make this real simple: please post links to the organic certification standards that permit the use of nicotine sulfate and methyl bromide in organic production. (You won’t even find those on the OMRI list.)
        Next, please post links to federal pesticide regulations that impose separate regulatory standards for pesticides based on which production practices they are approved for – in order to support your claim that “conventional pesticides” are scrutunised according to higher standards.
        I trust you can also demonstrate how pesticide-residue testing programs discriminate in the same manner, and are not simply based on practicality, risk assessment, and science. You seem to be alleging some pro-organic conspiracy within the halls of our pesticide regulators, so it will definitely be interesting to see it exposed (particularly considering that the conventional sector also widely employs these same products).
        Of course, I’ll also need to see a reference to the organic standards that permit the use of “kitchen sink home-brews”. I’m sure you’re aware that the fact that just because you can find something on the Internet that a home gardener may be tempted to use does not mean that it is “approved for organic use.”
        Also, rotenone has not been registered for any agricultural use in North America for at least a decade, and there were not any formulations approved for organic use in the United States since at least 2001, which pre-dates the National Organic Program. There is the theoretical possibility that it’s still considered a viable option for organic banana production in some countries, so you can keep beating that drum.

        If you’ve been unaware of what it actually means for a substance to be “approved for organic use” then you evidently lack the basic knowledge required to write on the topic, and I’d urge you to either do more research, or leave the topic to people with the proper background.
        By the way, I’ve never suggested that the pesticide regulatory system is inadequate (unlike you), and I’ve repeatedly confirmed my confidence in being able to safely consume food from any production system.

        P.S. Just yesterday there was a conversation on Twitter about how nice, respectful, and polite I am to interact with. So please rest assured that any disrespect I may express towards you is the exception that proves the rule, and is undoubtedly well-earned. It will also be relatively easy for you to earn back my respect – either produce the evidence I’ve clearly requested above, or retract your lies.


      2. riskmonger says:

        Rob I don’t get you most of the time. You attack me and say I am full of shit, refuse to accept my evidence but don’t provide evidence to the contrary. A UK writer noted that the Soil Association acknowledged there are 15 pesticides approved for organic farming but they refuse to tell us which 15 they approved. Nothing, Nada! So provide me with the list of all pesticides approved for organic farming in Canada – stop saying NO, NO, NO and be honest.
        I’m sure you think you are a nice person … I am just basing my view on the evidence provided before me. Scroll up and have a read!
        Much love


      3. rob says:

        David: Requesting that you provide evidence to back your claims is not attacking you or saying you are “full of shit.” It’s the way rational, scientific discourse takes place. When your claims are challenged, the burden is on you to provide evidence.
        I have been clear, very specific, and perfectly reasonable with regard to the evidence I’m requesting. As I said before, organic standards, and the lists of substances approved and/or prohibited for use in certified organic production are readily available on the Internet.

        Show us how they support your claims, or retract your errors. The jig is up David – it’s time to come clean.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. riskmonger says:

        Each of the substances have links and references – you have decided to not accept them. You have not provided lists that would conflict with mine.


  6. rob says:

    Your links and references do not support the claims you are making – it’s a matter of evidence, not of my “acceptance.”

    A few minutes on the web lead me directly to the UK Soil Association’s organic standards – the very information you claim is not available. Here’s the link:
    Section 4.11, pages 79-83 address “Controlling pests and disease”
    Here’s what it says about nicotine:
    “4.11.16 You must not use nicotine (Nicotiana tabacum) or extracts made from nicotine.”

    Here’s what Section 4.11.3 says:
    “You must ensure that any products you use for pest or disease control are approved for that specific use by the Pesticide Safety Directorate or other relevant body. All the substances listed in this section have to comply at least with the conditions for use as specified in the Annex to Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 540/2011. More restrictive conditions for use for organic production are specified in the second column of each table.”
    Obviously, this would prohibit the “homemade concoctions” you refer to.

    I could go ahead and demonstrate how the US NOP and the Canada Organic Standard reflect the same facts, but I think I’ve made my point.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. riskmonger says:

      I’m sorry Rob for missing this last point – I though I had moderated all of your comments on this post. I have not been in good health lately and have needed to take time off, so it was not until your latest insult of me on twitter that I realised I had missed this post.
      I have added an addendum to nicotine sulphate to acquiesce your desire to cherry-pick which organisations in which countries provide a definition of organic you feel comfortable accepting, but Rob, please, note that this, in itself, is an indictment of what is wrong with the organic movement. The UK Soil Association may reject nicotine sulphate, IFOAM and PAN do not! Other countries allow it or have no clear definitions (see recent scandals with organic feed imports). There is no global standard of organic – not surprising given that it is basically a marketing concept. But this is a crisis for your movement that needs to be addressed.
      I am sure there are some very good organic farmers trying to do good things to respect nature and the land – you keep telling me you are one of them. But Rob, you have a lobby organisation that is playing by a completely different ethical standard (I call it zealot ethics) – groups like IFOAM and PAN are lying and lobbying hard for all natural-based toxins, including the ones you refuse to accept. Organisations like OCA or the Non-GMO Project have no problem fear-mongering and I don’t see organic farmers standing up to condemn them.
      Where were you Rob when PAN ghost-wrote the Berkeley 45 letter against the movie Food Evolution? You were attacking me on twitter instead!
      Where were you Rob when Coop published that study on the cute Swedish family that went off conventional pesticides? I did not see you applaud the Swedish courts when they condemned the liars.
      Where were you Rob, on Internet forums promoting your organic standards? I don’t see your comments on the “organic home-brew” websites telling them to stop promoting dangerous and unsustainable solutions.
      The problem is not with me Rob, (although I get that I am an easy target!) it is with your organisation. You cannot cherry-pick what you want to believe, ignore how your lobby organisations behave and spend your time battling others and believing the big Monsanto conspiracy theories. Get your house in order and I will be happy to work with you (when I am feeling better). Continue to look the other way at the disorder and moral disgrace in the organic movement and I’ll continue to stick your nose in it (when I am feeling better).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. rob says:

        David – I’m aware of the fact that you’re not in the best of health. That’s why I gave you five weeks grace. During those five weeks you continued to post on this blog and engage regularly on Twitter.

        Before you continue to spread lies about nicotine sulphate, please post a single link to a single organic certification body in a single country that permits its use in organic production. The PAN link you provide doesn’t support your allegations, and given your past behaviour I’m pretty skeptical of your claims about IFOAM: more importantly, these are not the organizations that oversee certified organic production, so their position is of little relevance to our discussion.

        In previous comments I’ve addressed the issue of international organic standards and equivalency agreements.

        I, along with many other organic farmers, regularly speak out against the zealotry of the OCA et al – a quick visit to my Twitter feed or blog site will affirm that. I’m not sure who you’re referring to as “my organization.” I don’t spend my time “battling others and believing the big Monsanto conspiracy theories.” Again, I have a very clear, transparent public record of doing exactly the opposite. You appear to have moved from spreading lies and misinformation about organic production to spreading lies and misinformation about me personally.

        In response for my requests to you to provide evidence or correct the misinformation you’ve published in this particular post, you’re asking me to take responsibility for every reference to organic on the Internet – that level of deflection and misdirection is actually amusing. I don’t care about the order of your house, whether you want to work with me or not, or where you want to stick your nose. I care that you show some level of personal and professional integrity and correct the factual errors you’ve made in this post.


      2. riskmonger says:

        This blog was about the hypocrisy of the organic lobby – how they lied about the risk of conventional pesticides and tried to promote organic food as toxin-free. The organic lobby lies incessantly – read the pages before my list!
        My Dirty Dozen shows the hypocrisy – these organic pesticides are all more toxic than glyphosate (but I also do acknowledge they are probably safe as well). That one organic pesticide is not approved in the UK does not throw my list into disorder, but I get that is what you want. “Zaruk is wrong, and he is a bastard … so don’t listen to him!” Ad hominem is the only argument activists can use.
        PAN did not add nicotine sulphate to their own dirty dozen. They pretended the data was insufficient. Hypocrisy!
        IFOAM defends all organic toxins – recently their lobbyists blocked an EU organic regulation … you do know why!
        Both of these lobby groups represent the organic industry – their positions matter!
        You provided a whole slew of links which I have allowed on this page. I have even added a paragraph on your certification cherry-picking advising the reader to see the comment section. Not good enough for you, I get it, but look around! I don’t edit your comments – last week I commented on Thacker’s article – he changed my text before publishing it. And you attack me for what you call my lack of integrity.
        I did not ignore your comment because of my health issues – I thought I had moderated all of them. Get over yourself!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. David says:

    Methyl bromide is a broad spectrum pesticide used in the control of pest insects, nematodes, weeds, pathogens, and rodents. In the U.S., methyl bromide has been used in agriculture, primarily for soil fumigation, as well as for commodity and quarantine treatment, and structural fumigation (#EPA).


    1. riskmonger says:

      Thanks … I was really not well at the time. I should not have allowed any of Rob’s abusive comments. Live and learn.


  8. Chris says:

    I just was googling mancozeb and copper sulfate in relatioship to treating anthracnose in mangos. (Disclaimer I like the thought of organic treatments where possible). I’ve ended up here…
    Is cow manure bad? Or did I misunderstand?
    I do appreciate the robust discussion you two are having, I do deduct points for name calling and temper flaring however.
    You are obviously at opposite poles on this and thats cool. As a back yard grower I am just trying to poison ny family, animals, bees and soil etc as least as possible whilst controlling pests and diseases.
    I think that industry is way more important than my backyard as it effects way more of the earth.
    Soooo it would be great if people like you two who understand the science (I dont) can come to some agreement and educate people like me how to be better in my backyard.
    More importantly if industry could do the same and make the world a safer and more productive place, we as all humans would win.
    Us and them arguments are perhaps less helpful than “we”
    Would be awesome if you two could agree on safe things that grow stuff better and kill stuff better and not hurt everything .
    Publish this list on what to use and at what doses
    And hey presto
    We are all better for it.


    1. riskmonger says:

      Thanks for your comments Chris and your plea for measured balance – I could not agree more that the polarisation of the debate is unhealthy.
      I have been trying to get more dialogue and engagement but have recognised that the organic industry lobby, that feeds fear to grow markets, has been the main obstacle there. The sooner we understand the motives of their divisive campaigns, the sooner we can return to a rational debate.
      I fear that public trust in science, in the business models that support it (whether it is pharma, biotech, crop protection…) is fast eroding at a time when the world desperately needs more technology, not less. So I use strong language.
      For your question on cow manure. There are issues of environmental risks, run-off … but the point I mention here is that consumers should not be lulled into thinking that organic is safe and that we only rinse fruit and veg to remove pesticides. Manure is a source of E. coli and there are higher traces found in organic food that can be reduced through proper rinsing.
      As for Rob – he evidently dislikes me and my views – I understand that. He also says I continually insult him but I looked through all of our unpleasant exchanges and cannot find one instance where I had insulted him personally. I suppose he interprets that given that I insult something he feels passionate about. In this blog, for example, which gets very good daily exposure, I have given him five unedited mini-blogs and have even adjusted the text of my blog to try to appease him. He knows I have been weakened by heart disease and I resent that he had pushed me harder. I believe in engagement and have never blocked a person or their comments, but in this case, I am considering doing so.
      I am never given such freedom to discuss agri-tech with pro-organic people (I’m banned or pre-banned by most people, I was physically dragged out of the Monsanto Tribunal event and I am constantly attacked by the anti-GMO activists). Maybe it is time for me to adopt their practices and play dirty instead of trying to discuss evidence without bias. All the more why I appreciate your “can’t we all just get along” message … many thanks.


  9. rob says:

    Spreading lies and misinformation is the definition of playing dirty.
    All I’ve requested is evidence to support your claims. Failing to receive that, I supplied evidence to falsify them.
    I was not aware of the particulars of your health issues, but I have consistently suggested that the easiest, most direct way to resolve the issue is to admit that you were wrong. I don’t doubt that your continued deflection and denial is emotionally and intellectually taxing.
    If you truly wanted an end to division, you’d stick to the facts. But once again, you choose to attack with misinformation – the latest example being your claims about microbial contamination.
    All in all, it’s a sad situation.


    1. riskmonger says:

      Rob, this is the last comment I will moderate from you – you cannot accept reality, whether it is about links to research that I post or even to things you yourself say (on July 18, you said you were aware of my health issues). I don’t have time for your continued incendiary insults and pro-organic sophisms. Good luck to you!


  10. steffiharvey says:

    I’m confused as to why Riskmonger keeps saying that Rob is insulting him? What I am seeing is an argument from two people on opposite sides with information being used in those arguments. Why continue to say that Rob is insulting and attacking you? It seems that you can’t handle someone who is disagreeing with you possibly. . . .


    1. riskmonger says:

      Well, Rob did call me a liar in this exchange. His twitter trolling on my page had the same level of taunts and arrogance (not willing to consider any view that disagrees with his dogma). Rob also knew I was quite ill and in hospital at the time and still he was criticising me for not publishing his comments.
      You can judge me as you wish – I am publishing your comment and giving you a voice … something I rarely get with the pro-organic crowd.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Reblogged this on Peddling and Scaling God and Darwin and commented:
    More on dangerous pesticides


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