An organic consumer’s responsibility towards environment doesn’t end after he/she purchases an organic product. Greenmoksha mentioned earlier about saving and sharing organic seeds as the responsibility of an organic consumer. The second responsibility of organic consumer is not to let go of such organic waste like peels, roughage or organic food gone bad. The reason being it free of chemicals and good for composting.
One of the biggest greenwash is composting which is projected as the ultimate green good we are doing without giving a second thought on all the chemicals we are putting in it or the amount of methane it’s generating. We propagate composting concept just to separate out degradable and non-degradable but there is no relation between being degradable and harmless. Degradable products and conventional food products contain hundreds of toxins which are not easily degraded.
During the composting cycle, pesticide chemicals can undergo one of the process. Some toxins decay into simpler molecules. Some form bonds with other compounds (adsorption). Some evaporate into the atmosphere. Some leach from the pile, draining away with liquid run-off. Some, become part of humus molecules. Some undergo mineralization which is the desirable one for pesticides.
Mineralization refers to the breakdown of organic compounds into their inorganic (or mineral) and organic constituents. The remaining organic constituents that contain carbon breakdown further into a variety of simple molecules that include carbon dioxide and water. The CO2 evaporates, the water and the inorganic, or mineral part of the pesticide molecule stays in the soil environment. The result is that the pesticide has been permanently transformed into non-toxic molecules. Though this is best from the soil’s point of view but escaping CO2 and other gasses increase global warming.
After the disaster that was DDT and before herbicide Clopyralid people were looking into chemicals which degraded but Herbicide clopyralid resists breakdown in compost, in soil, and in animal guts. Being mobile in water and soil and can be found far from its origin. It is extremely toxic at very low levels to members of the Leguminosa family (pea and bean), the Solonaceae family (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant) and the Composita family (sunflowers, asters, dandelions, daisies).
Similar is the case with highly toxic Endosulfan a banned pesticide and produced in large amounts in India and China. It takes years to degrade and has been found in places like artic sea, Antarctic climate and even in Sahara sands according to Wikipedia .
Another highly toxic organophosphate pesticide which is widely used in India on rice grains is Malathion. Agriculture sites suggest its use on crops and on storage area. This particular chemical is allowed to sit for long on inside a body changes to a more toxic form malaoxon and shown to aid lymphoma.
Unfortunately there is very little data or studies done on the life cycle of the “Natural/Herbal/Safe pesticide organic farmers need to use or are they made from plants grown in toxic environment.
How Pesticides Get Into Compost
As hundreds of cities, societies across India have begun composting degradable waste, new questions will arise soon about what kinds of things make their way into compost and whether any of them pose a threat to humans and the environment
The most obvious route by which pesticides get into compost is through the composting of pesticide-treated plants. This happens with most of pesticides now. They degrade at different times making it very difficult to make a perfect compost unless they don’t go into it in the first place.
There is no regulation against organic farmers buying composted manure without prior checking. Searching for compost both online or locally didn’t give any indication of the nature of waste gone into composting nor the time it was kept. Though the dreaded bacteria’s do a good job in breaking many chemicals but still some remain. Most of the organic farmers put up on their websites about natural manure or composted manure being used without giving a second thought to it being chemical free or not. Most of the people think that animal excreta is organic manure but that too can contain these chemicals as most of them don’t digest
Organic laws are quite vague and have many grey areas like “Organic Irrigation” or Organic Air” or “Organic Manure”. One can technically have an organic farm next to a polluting industry and still be called organic as it uses fertilizers and pesticides termed as organic. There are no certification for composts and the word “Organic” is freely used to mostly convey its purpose rather than its nature.
Someone said, “No one escapes all exposure to chemicals in this world anymore,” We are in the era where first clean water then clean air is being packed and sold and it’s not long when clean soil will be sold for a premium. These are the three gems of future as I call them and it makes an organic consumers responsibility to compost the waste generated from organic produces.