News & Trends

Pesticides 101: Learn the Basics

Publish DateMar 19, 2021

Of all the topics related to organic farming, the subtopic 'pesticides' garners perhaps the most attention. This is entirely logical. In the plethora of information available on food safety, nutritional value, exposure to outdoor pollutants, the concern of pesticides' impacts on humans are widely known.

There is nothing hidden. It is out in the open.

Yet, how many of us spend time learning about it.

In line with the Covid-19 outbreak and the devastations caused by it, this year’s search for health and safety has gone through the roof. The public sphere has become a place for multiple emerging narratives on self-care.

Enduring the challenge of time — the grim situation brought upon by COVID-19 — people have reinforced changes to take charge of their health.

Studies show that increasingly individuals are accessing the internet to make informed health decisions.

Deciding whether to eat organic or non-organic should be the foremost task, even before choosing the dish.

This question must be asked: Should I go organic to avoid pesticides and be a part of this widely growing environmental movement?

Here is a quick guide to browse through to enhance your foundational knowledge of pesticides to make your knowledge-hunt easier.

The more people get turned on to it, the better it is.

What are pesticides?

Pesticides — the chemical burden on natural ecosystems — are agrochemicals used in agricultural lands, public health programs, and urban green areas to protect plants from various diseases and humans from vector-borne diseases, such as malaria.

:"Pesticides" are not just insecticides; all the substances used to control pests are pesticides. It excludes chemicals used as fertilizers, food additives and animal drugs, plant and animal nutrients.

What are the types of pesticides?

A wide range of pesticides is available in the market to kill various pests.

Check out this definitive list provided by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the classification of pesticides based on target animals:


Type of pesticide



Algae in water bodies such as lakes, canals, swimming pools, water tanks, and other sites


Organisms present in underwater surfaces such as boat bottoms



Microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses.


Pest such as insect or rodentbyluring to a trap or bait






Disinfectants and sanitizers




Fumigants (gas or vapor)




Insect growth regulators



Insects and other arthropods




Snails and slugs






Eggs of insects and mites


Insects by disrupting their mating behavior

Plant growth regulators alter the expected (does not include fertilizers).


Growth, flowering or reproduction rate of plants


Pests, including insects (such as mosquitoes) and birds



Mice and other rodents


What is in a pesticide product?

Pesticides combine chemical formulation that consists of various ingredients, mainly classified as active and inert ingredients.

Active ingredients
are biologically and chemically active ingredients designed to kill any kind of pest.

Check the label for the list of active ingredients.

Inert ingredients
refer to any substance other than the active ingredients present in a pesticide product.

They are considered as 'trade secrets.'

Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), pesticide manufacturers are waived off revealing the list of ingredients on product labels.

What is a possible solution?

Natural and Biological Pesticides!

Nature offers plenty of resources as an alternative to harmful pesticides. EPA has divided natural and biological pesticides into three broad categories:

Biopesticides: Biopesticides is an umbrella term used for three kinds:

Microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi

Natural Substances: Using plant materials such as corn gluten, garlic oil, and black pepper to control pests rather than killing them

o Plant-Incorporated Protectants (PIPs): Introducing protectants into plant bodies by genetic engineering to increase their ability to protect itself from pests

Minimum risk pesticides: Pesticides posing minimum harm and not required review for registration primarily are referred as minimum risk pesticides.

Organic pesticides: Organic pesticides are made from natural ingredients. They are not devoid of chemicals and usually derives chemicals from botanical and mineral sources.

Author: Somrita Ganchoudhuri

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