According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the definition of a pesticide is:
- a chemical substance used to kill harmful insects, small animals, wild plants, and other unwanted organisms.
Most people believe pesticides are very simple concepts: you put poison on something, a predator comes around–be it a bug or a virus or an animal–and the invader consumes the toxin and dies, leaving your crop for you. But that’s only part of the story.
We’ve discussed toxins in a previous blog wherein we explained the scientific concept that, “the dose makes the poison.” As an example we looked at the case of a woman who unfortunately died of acute water intoxication during a radio show contest. Some people had trouble following the connection to pesticides because it was difficult comprehending water as being a toxic chemical compound, even though it is in fact a chemical compound which is potentially toxic. But that mental leap might be easier with something like Theobromine. So let’s try this:
A person afraid of pesticides will state that they don’t want dangerous chemicals on their food. But suppose you have a field of carrots. They’re really good. But then let’s imagine a wild pack of puppies invade the area and start digging up and eating your carrots while you sleep. Your land is dug up, your carrots are gone and your children are starving and you have nothing to sell. What are you going to do? You need to stop those puppies.
You could accomplish your goal by putting out theobromine. It’ll kill the dogs. It’s just an alkaloid, which is a natural chemical compound made of primarily nitrogen atoms. In this case it’s the four blue ones, bonded with two oxygen atoms (red), eight hydrogen atoms (white), and seven carbon atoms (grey). In the diagram to the right, you can see that a hydrogen and a nitrogen bond to form the compound amine.
Oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and carbon. The universe is filled with these. You breathe nitrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen is the most abundant chemical in the universe and carbon is all around you at this very moment. But you’re still probably thinking, but if it killed the dogs it’ll kill me too. But that conclusion is where your intuition isn’t matching science or nature.
Theobromine is poisonous to your dog, but it’s why you get a boost from eating chocolate. You and your dog are different species. The definitions of those sorts of differences is what defines a “species.” So do you see how something can be dangerous to a pest and fine for you? Would you really worry about picking your carrots in a garden full of chocolate? Would you feel in danger if you had to rinse some chocolate off your vegetables, or if you ate some chocolate with your carrot? Well, the Bt in corn or eggplant is like very plain-tasting chocolate. It’s was created by nature, it’ll kill a bug, but it won’t do anything to you, to a bird, or to any mammal walking or flying through the field.
If you want to make yourself sick then worry about your food, because when you worry your body produces the hormone cortisol. Cortisol disrupts bone development and it suppresses your immune system. It’s necessary, but too much isn’t good for you at all. If you’re going to pump it out you might as well eat fast food every day. Cortisol’s much worse for you than chocolate, or the tiny amount of pesticides we actually eat.
The simple fact is, our food is extremely healthy, which is why the national life expectancy has improved from 50 years old in 1900, to 81 years old in 2017. So the next time you feel moved to worry about minuscule amounts of any chemical on your food, just remember that your food is better than ever, but the worrying about your food is actually dangerous.