GOING GREEN: Chemical pesticides can harm helpful insects as much, if not more, than harmful ones. Ground beetles, ladybugs, fireflies, praying mantes, spiders and wasps can help keep harmful insects from devouring lawns or plants, and also pollinate plants and decompose organic matter. Some tips for going green on pest control:
- Use botanical pesticides and herbal pest repellants, such as garlic and hot-pepper sprays, which can be made by processing those herbs in a blender with water and then straining out the pulp. Adding a few drops of soap will make it toxic to soft-bodied insects.
- Set out traps to attract target pests, but avoid electric bug zappers: these destroy more beneficial insects than harmful ones.
- Maintain a healthy soil through green landscaping: efficient watering, diverse plant varieties, and reduction of rainfall runoff can all significantly reduce pest problems. Pruning or removing diseased leaves, branches or plants can stop the spread of disease.
- Whenever possible, use native plants; they require less attention and are hardier than exotics because they are adapted to their locales.
FOOD TERM DEFINITIONS: Everyone has heard the countless food terms used to identify and advertise food from the grocery store to the farm stand. What do they mean?
- Organic: To be considered organic, foods generally must not be produced using synthetic chemical inputs, genetically modified organisms, irradiation or sewage sludge. The farmland itself must be free of these techniques for multiple years, keep detailed records of the processes used, and undergo on-site inspections from certifying groups.
- Cage-free: This term is used for chickens raised for meat and for their eggs. Free range is the term for chickens with access to the outdoors, but cage free birds have the opportunity to move around without being locked inside small cages.
- GMO-free - This stands for genetically modified organism, meaning that the genetic material of the animal or plant has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. There is considerable disagreement about the danger of foods that have been genetically modified, which includes efforts to add nutrients to staple foods, as well as pest-resistance and other qualities.
This report has also been produced thanks to a generous grant from The Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, Inc.