The use of pesticides has been ongoing for years, the same length of time that opposing groups have debated about whether this practice should continue or should alternatives be used. Pesticides are chemicals used by farmers to combat agricultural pests in most parts of the world. Despite the advantages of using pesticides, there have also been fears of these chemicals causing death in humans. Here are some of the positive and negative effects of pesticides according to supporters and critics.
List of Pros of Pesticides
1. Enough Food Supply
People in favor of using pesticides on plants and agricultural products say that since farmers have been using these chemicals to destroy pests and other organisms which eat these crops, harvests increased and more produce has become available for agriculturists to market and consumers to put on their tables.
2. Easily Available
Supporters of the use of pesticides claim that nowadays, these chemicals can be bought in local stores and supermarkets. Consumers, both farmers and gardeners will not have a hard time finding for them anytime the need arises. And with more manufacturers competing for sales, these pesticides have also become more affordable.
Advocates for the use of pesticides agree at some point that there might be chemicals in pesticides that can affect health but they argue that in general, these pesticides are safe. There are different pesticides in the market and some manufacturers have also come up with environment-friendly products like herbicides which contain less or no harmful chemicals at all. These products are just like the products with no toxic substances or with organic ingredients, thus, they are safe.
4. Pests Eradication
Perhaps the major benefit of using pesticides is its ability to kill unwanted pests and species that destroy crops and plants. They are also used to destroy species that are harmful to trees in the forests. Loopers and budworms are just two of these forest enemies that kill thousands of trees because they affect foliation. Experts have studied natural bacteria in the environment that help kill insects, larvae and budworms. One of the bacteria is Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki or what is called “Btk”. Scientists were able to extract the properties of Btk and were able to produce pesticides.
5. Lower Food Costs
Supporters of the use of pesticides claim that ever since farmers have been using pesticides, the prices of produce and other food products have lowered. The costs of goods and commodities in the market are a combination of the expenses from production, raw materials and the like. This is the same with agricultural products. If there is little harvest, farmers will have to raise their prices to at least get back their losses or break even. With pesticides, losses have been reduced which makes it easier for farmers to offer their products for lower costs.
List of Cons of Pesticides
1. Accidental Ingestion
Opponents of the continuance of using pesticides argue that when toxic chemicals, like the ones in pesticides, are ingested by humans, it can be hazardous to their health. The use of these harmful chemicals is common, especially in third world countries. Some farmers might be too careless to protect themselves in handling these chemicals like not wearing gloves or covering their faces. When they eat with bare hands, it is possible for them to ingest the residue of these chemical and they can also inhale these pesticides which can lead to respiratory problems.
2. Decline of the Number of Pollinators
Critics also point out that when pesticides are used, pollinators like bees and butterflies are affected and decline in abundance and occurrence become evident. When this happens, the supply of fruits, vegetables and seeds will become unstable. Agricultural production, around 5-8%, relies on animal pollination and sadly, in some parts of the world, some butterfly species are coming to extinction.
3. Environmental Threat
Analysis on systemic pesticides which contain chemicals such as fipronil and neonicotinoids resulted to a conclusion that they are a threat to the environment. These types of pesticides are ingested by the plants through their vascular systems and then transported to other plant tissues, including the leaves, roots, flowers and nectar. This has also brought experts to the conclusion that these pesticides or the harmful properties they have are present in the environment, in land, air and water.
Experts against the use of pesticides mention that this can lead to bioaccumulation, that is, a substance will stay in the body because of the lack of proper mechanisms to remove it. Since there are numerous synthetic pesticides that cannot be broken down, they will be stored permanently organisms like plants. When a predator like bees or animals feed on the plants or organisms, the pesticides are transferred. The level goes up when a larger animal consumes the smaller animal and the cycle goes on.
5. Resistance Buildup
Critics also argue that pesticides are not totally effective since as the time goes by and same chemicals are scattered in the environment, there will be residues and over time, the pests will be resistant to these pesticides while humans, plants and natural organisms will not. This is known as genetic resistance. Consequently, farmers will be using stronger chemicals which are much more harmful than the previous brands.
6. Food Poisoning
Noroviruses that can spread from person-to-person by ingestion of aerosolized vomit can be associated with norovirus food poisoning that had led to deaths. According to analysis done by experts, the use of pesticides is the reason behind these viruses to end in fruits and vegetables which are then eaten by humans. This is because the water used with pesticides might be contaminated with these pathogens.
The use of pesticides will remain to be a controversial issue because of its advantages and disadvantages. Despite the benefits they bring, the fact still remains that they contain hazardous chemicals. Good thing there is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ensuring that information reaches the public so health and lives can be protected.