Over the past 20 years the use of pesticides in conventional agriculture has skyrocketed, leading to widespread contamination of non-target areas. Research has shown that wildlife living in pristine habitats are often exposed to synthetic pesticides, despite living many miles from farmland. Even extremely remote areas, such as the Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau have shown pesticide accumulation from areal transportation.
Unfortunately, organic farmers can also be a casualty of the ubiquitous use of pesticides. Despite not using toxic, synthetic chemicals on their crops, organic farmers can experience inadvertent residues from drift or environmental factors like groundwater and rain. These contamination instances can have a disproportionate impact on organic farmers, because they not only face the loss of product from damage by sprays, but also the loss of income when their products can no longer be sold as organic, and in some cases, when farmers lose certification of their land.
While the organic community has identified this as a critical topic for investigation, little data has been collected synthesizing the current experiences and specific research needs of the organic community. This project will address this by bringing together organic stakeholders across the supply chain with scientists to determine the crops that are most heavily impacted by contamination, pesticides that the organic industry has detected on its crops, losses that organic farmers and industry members have experienced, strategies that organic farmers have undertaken to reduce pesticide drift, and research needs for identifying vectors and preventing contamination to inform the development of a large-scale and multi-disciplinary research project that will provide farmers with strategies for combating current contamination.