Pesticides have been used in American agriculture since the 1950s. They are used to control pests, weeds, and plant diseases on agricultural crops. In recent years, however, pesticides have come under increased scrutiny for their environmental impacts including the potential harm they can cause to birds and other wildlife populations. This blog post will discuss how pesticides affect farms, the environment, food supply in America’s agriculture industry.
What are pesticides and why are they used in agriculture
Pesticides are chemical substances that may be in a liquid, granular, or powder form. They’re used to control pests, weeds, and plant diseases on agricultural crops such as corn, soybeans wheat, and cotton. Pesticides have been in use for over 50 years. The pesticides include herbicides that kill plants; insecticides that kill insects; rodenticides that kill rodents; bactericides that are designed to reduce bacteria; fungicides for fungi control and larvicides which reduce the larvae, insect reproduction. All these chemical substances are designed to not affect the crop plants themselves, as the goal is to yield the most crop, increasing profitability for the farm.
Pesticide use in the US
Pesticides are used in all 50 states. Between 2005 and 2011, the US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) reported that there was a 61% increase in pesticides being used on crops across America, with most of these chemicals coming from herbicides such as glyphosate.
Glyphosate is used in the production of soybeans, corn and other cereal grains.
Pesticides can enter water supplies through runoff from agricultural fields into streams or ponds where they are consumed by fish. They also contaminate soil when sprayed on crops which then enters groundwater sources such as wells. This contamination makes its way up to drinking fountains and even bottled water because it seeps into aquifers.
Environmental effects of pesticide use
Insecticides and Larvicides are designed to kill the insect population. This in itself is problematic because, although some insects destroy crops, insects are an important part of the fertilization of plants.
The problem with the use of pesticides is that they also kill other insects, which can create a domino effect. For example, if the insect population decreases from pesticide use, then there are fewer things to eat and therefore less food for larger organisms such as birds or mammals who depend on insects for their diet.
The EPA has also reported that pesticides are responsible for killing over 40% of honey bee colonies across America each year as well as a variety of other pollinators including butterflies, birds, bats and beetles. Pesticides may be part of the reason why monarch butterfly populations have been declining during recent years with an estimated 95%.
Mass extinction of a specific part of the insect population will have a ripple effect through the ecosystem and is not sustainable.
Health effects of pesticide exposure
It’s naive to think that pesticides and chemicals have no effect on the food, and none of the chemicals are getting into the water supply and ultimately into the food itself.
In small doses, pesticides will pass through our bodies and have no effect. But, if it’s in everything we eat over years of consuming pesticides it could have serious health effects.
Health effects due to pesticides include cancer causing agents which affect red blood cells, nerves, and hormones; developmental disorders in children exposed during pregnancy, cognitive deficits among school-age children because exposure damages development.
Alternatives to pesticides for farms, environment, and food production
Many organic farms do not use pesticides at all as they believe it is a step in the right direction for sustainability,
Organic farming has been shown to increase biodiversity and provide healthier food products. This can be seen by increased levels of antioxidants in organic produce.
Some farmers are using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) which uses environmentally sound practices such as crop rotation, mechanical weeding, resistant varieties, biological control agents that keep the need for chemical pesticides low or even eliminates them completely– IPM-based production systems have reduced pesticide usage compared with conventional agriculture. IPM also helps reduce impacts on pollinators like honeybees because many pesticides kill these important insects directly or make their hives less habitable.
Conclusions on the future of American agriculture with respect to pesticides
Pesticide use is a major topic of discussion in agriculture. While pesticides are necessary to keep crops healthy and free from pests, the long-term effects of pesticide exposure on human health have not been well studied. There’s also a concern for how these chemicals affect our environment – especially when they run off into waterways or get blown onto other farms by windy conditions. In order to combat this issue, we recommend that you search for organic food sources if possible. For those who live in areas where accessing locally grown produce is difficult (or prohibitively expensive), we suggest looking at organizations to find local farmers’ markets near you. When it comes down to it, if consumers demand sustainable produce and only support sustainable farms, change can be forced.