ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network
Date:  12 November 2000

Recently the biotech brigade has been going into overdrive about some research on chronic use of Rotenone, or Derris, linking it to Parkinsons, because this naturally occurring chemical is sometimes - though rarely - permitted for use in organic farming.

The irony is, as this Soil Association statement below makes clear, that the research has more obvious relevance to the agrochemical industry!
*  *  *
FACT SHEET : The uses of the pesticide Rotenone |

Research in America [1] has linked exposure to the pesticide Rotenone to Parkinson's disease.

Rotenone is an insecticide used to control aphidsas well as the raspberry beetle and sawflies. It breaks down easily in the environment and therefore the issue is of exposure to the operator from
applying the insecticide directly, not of residues in food.

Rotenone, or Derris, a plant extract, is one of seven naturally occurring chemicals permitted for occasional restricted use in organic farming. In order to use a restricted product, farmers have to justify the requirement for the input and plan to avoid its use in the future. Use is only granted if these conditions are met. In practice it is rarely applied in organic farming because it can have a harmful affect on beneficial species as well as pests.

By comparison conventional farming allows 450 pesticide products [2], licensed for use by the Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD) which can be used without restriction. However, Rotenone is an active ingredient in household and amateur gardening insecticide products used by thousands
of people and this is a major cause for concern.

This research has opened up a more worrying prospect as Rotenone works in a similar way to many other synthetic pesticides used widely in food production but which do not break down as easily. It acts by causing the mitochondria - which power the cell - to produce free radicals, reactive chemicals that produce oxidative damage in a variety of contexts and which have been implicated in many degenerative diseases.

There is a strong possibility that exposure to these chemicals through residues in food on a
daily basis could also be linked to Parkinson's disease or other degenerative diseases. Parkinson's disease affects 120,000 people every year and the numbers are growing.

The Soil Association believes more research is urgently required into the wide range of synthetic chemicals used in conventional farming and that sustainable methods of agriculture, which are not heavily reliant on chemicals, should be encouraged.

Chronic Systemic pesticide exposure reproduces features of Parkinson's disease - Ranjita Betarbet, Todd B Shera,Gillian MacKenzie, Monica Garcia-Osuna, Alexander V. Panov and J. Timothy Greenamyre will be published in Nature Neuroscience, December 2000.

ngin bulletin archive