Every year someone will make a mistake and apply a the "wrong" pesticide in their vegetable garden or home orchard. It may be a canceled pesticide such as old, leftover chlordane or heptachlor that was used in the garden, or it may be a current pesticide that is not labeled for food crops that was applied. Misapplication of Orthene, Isotox and the corn rootworm insecticides are all-to-frequent examples of the latter problem.
When such misapplication mistakes are made it is common for the gardener to ask when the vegetables or fruits will be "safe" to eat. Of course, this is a loaded question that puts the answerer at risk if any unfortunate consequences occur, whether the result of the pesticide or not.
The standard, conservative response to questions about misapplied pesticides on food crops is to suggest the plants be destroyed or the fruit removed and discarded. The cost of produce at the farmer's market this summer will be much lower than the uncertainty and worry that often accompanies this situation. Any deviation from this response would require very careful reading of the pesticide label and possibly the labels of other formulations of the same active ingredient. Gardeners can also contact the pesticide packager (name and address from the label) for another opinion on the advisability of eating improperly treated produce.
This article originally appeared in the June 3, 1992 issue, p. 91.
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