lundi 24 avril 2017

104- Natural vs synthetic -4- About the production of natural pyrethrins


Following my previous article in this series on pyrethrins and pyrethroids (, I received a question, on April 5, on the French version "Hello, to produce natural pyrethrins, it is advisable to grow flowers of pyrethras. More and more pyrethras, since there is more and more organic farming. Do you know if the cultivation of these pyrethrum flowers is done in organic farming? "
My answer was "I dare not even think that pyrethrum fields for the production of organic pesticides can be grown with synthetic pesticides. But, is there any control? I don't know. "

But Wackes Seppi, known to the francophone agricultural community for his blog ( abundantly provided and critical, gives me a link in French (, with the comment "You will fall on your ass! "

And I fell on my ass!!!

Erwan Seznec is a freelance French journalist, known for his critical stances, often going against social and political correctness.
In October 2016, he published on his blog the following article, which I reproduce in full, as usual.

"How organic outsources conventional pesticides to poor countries- 12/10/16

The tidal wave of articles announcing the disappearance of pesticides in private gardens by 2019 has opportunely covered two rather inconvenient conceptual pitfalls. The first one, developed in the organic pesticides survey published in Que Choisir [a French review and association of consumers], is that organic pesticides, which will remain allowed, are not really free of inconvenient. Furthermore, these organic pesticides don't eliminate the use of conventional pesticides. In the case of pyrethrin, they outsource it in East Africa and Papua New Guinea.

Pyrethrins are insecticides produced from Dalmatian pyrethrum and chrysanthemums flowers. They are found in dozens of preparations, authorized in organic farming.

The flowers in question, of course, must be grown somewhere. In this case, Tanzania (60% of world production), Papua New Guinea and Kenya. We learn from this Kenyan document that it takes 52,000 plants to obtain 25kg of powder. Here, it is discovered that pyrethrum, unsurprisingly, is attacked by pests and fungi.

And in this very detailed Australian study (1), the perceptive reader finds confirmation of what common sense may already have suggested. To spray these non-food crops, Tanzanians and New Guineans growers have no reason to use organic, more expensive pesticides. They use the conventional arsenal.

"In pyrethrum crops in East Africa and Papua New Guinea," the Australian and American researchers wrote, "fungicides effective against chrysanthemum ascochytosis include ethylene bis-dithiocarbamates, captan, benomyl, chlorothalonil and dichloronaphthoquinone". Moreover, "a range of other products belonging to the group of demethylation inhibitors, including difenoconazole, have proved their efficacy", provided that they have "several applications of these fungicides".

Difenoconazole is almost all that is prohibited by organic agriculture: toxic to mammals, to aquatic environments, and persisting with a half-life of 1600 days under certain conditions. It is page 5 of the study (1).

In the two years after the efficacy tests, researchers praise, "90% of the pyrethrum producers in Tanzania" have adopted the fungicide program. The Australian authors are from the University of Tasmania, where pyrethrum is also grown. One might think they have good information about Africa. MGK, the Australian sector leader, has farms in Tanzania.

In 2010, German researchers pointed out the paradox. Kenya produces dried pyrethrum flowers, but "95% of the raw pyrethrin is exported to more environmentally-conscious developed countries, where it is sold at premium prices, leaving Kenya to import cheaper synthetic pesticides." (2).

The Kenyan case suggests that the cultivation of pyrethrum is not an easy task. From 70% of the world market in the early 2000s, its production fell to less than 5% ten years later, due to irregularities in yields. Agriculture is an exciting but difficult trade.

Erwan Seznec

1) Diseases of Pyrethrum in Tasmania: Challenges and Prospects for Management.  

2) « Incidentally, Kenya is the leading producer of a natural pesticide, pyrethrin, which is a broad-spectrum insecticide made from dried flowers of pyrethrum (Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium). However, 95% of the crude pyrethrin is exported to more environmentally conscious developed countries, where it earns a premium price, leaving Kenya to import the cheaper toxic synthetic pesticides ».  Potential environmental impacts of pesticides use in the vegetable sub-sector in Kenya. »

I will add, because it seems important to me, that the Australian document also explains, on page 2, that for a successful pyrethrum crop, the use of herbicides is necessary, as well as intensive sprinkler irrigation with use of fertilizers. It is finally learned that the harvest of flowers is mechanical.
All these criteria are a priori contrary to the philosophy of organic farming.

My surprise was such that I decided to look a little more. And I came across a Kenyan document from HighChem Agriculture, a consulting and support company for pyrethrum producers, also selling seeds and crops. This document explains main stages of cultivation ( and shows that pest control is based on 3 synthetic insecticides, carbaryl (a carbamate banned in Europe since 2006), dioxathion (an organophosphorus banned in Europe since 2002) and, surprisingly, alphacypermethrin, a synthetic pyrethroid.
And all this to produce a natural pyrethrin, authorized in organic farming?

Her we are.
What do we have to think?
What I have already told you several times: organic is above all a juicy market, for which everything is allowed, especially cheating cheerfully the consumer, but also the farmer (who in this case buys natural pyrethrins in good faith, without knowing that he is fooled).
This market is primarily developed in the richest countries (especially in Europe), in which it is fashionable, it is even the most perfect chic to consume organic. It's better for the planet!
Yes, except that, on the one hand, the organic has many dark sides that are systematically ignored, and on the other hand, making organic in Europe is much easier if we the most negative aspects are relocated to the other side of the planet!

We are once again in marketing, in communication.
We ignore all non-seller aspects, not to shock the consumer. It is the same problem with GMOs. It is hardly produced in Europe, but it is imported by whole boats produced in other parts of the world.

It's the same thing. Contrary to what I believed, candid and naive, organic pesticides are not produced according to the essential criteria of organic farming.

It's simply unbelievable!!!

This does not detract from the merit of farmers who produce organic, whether by philosophical or economic choice. But they have to do it with a limited number of alternatives to solve phytosanitary problems, that they will have anyway, and which requires them to work extremely precisely because they have very little margin for error.

But it just shows that, ultimately, organic farming is a huge fraud, which is used to the benefit of a few people, on the back of farmers and consumers.

I have already told you, I repeat it once again, and it won't be the last time, the future is not Organic Farming, it is Integrated Farming (, or more recently Agroecology. In short, the use of pesticides is essential for sustainable agriculture, and a fairer and more ecological food production.

Will our politicians be smart, well-advised, honest and courageous to tell to environmental lobbies, as well as to industrial lobbies, that their place is not in the political debate?

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