These are just a few of the concerns we have about pesticide application in the U.S. Other countries have banned many of the systemic pesticides used in the U.S. and in 2018, the European Union voted for a near total ban on the use of several neonicitinoids.
Insect and bird pollinators are responsible for a great deal of pollination of our food crops as well as native and ornamental plants. Loss of these species not only affects our food productivity, but it also contributes to the collapse of biodiversity in our ecosystems. A May 2013 report by USDA finds that pollination is valued at $20 to $30 billion annually. What does loss of these pollinators mean for food production?
Pesticides are developed to do several things: Insecticides (bug killers), herbicides (plant killers), fungicides (fungus killers), rodenticides and antimicrobials. They are applied in sprays, injections, powders, seed-coatings and lots of other forms to food that we eat.
Coatings of pesticides on agricultural seeds are there to make the entire poisonous to insects. These seed coatings aren’t regulated by the EPA as pesticides applied in other ways. The vast majority of the major grain and legume crops in the U.S. are grown with coated seeds.
Many insecticides are intended to attack the brain and nervous systems of the insects or whatever and whomever else they contact, whereas herbicides typically are dangerous over longer-term exposure. Insecticides, such as the systemic class of neonicitinoids, are believed to be part of the reason for declining honey bee populations as well as deaths of other pollinators. For example, in June 2013, application on Linden trees of a neonicotinoid poison killed over 50,000 bumblebees in a shopping center parking lot in Oregon. The trees were being sprayed because of a non-life-threatening infestation of aphids.
In the 1940s, U.S. farmers lost 7% of their crops to pests while that has increased to more than 13% in recent decades, despite increased use of pesticides. Many insects and weeds are becoming resistant to these chemicals designed to kill them thus causing more and more to be applied and new and stronger chemicals being developed.
Each year, an estimated 1 billion pounds of pesticides are applied to U.S. farms, forests, lawns and golf courses. More than 17,000 pesticide products are currently on the market.
The Centers for Disease Control have found that everyone has pesticides in our bodies. The USDA has found that nearly all of US drinking water contains pesticide residues. With stronger chemicals being developed that can do more damage, this is alarming for human health.
Home application of pesticides is typically far greater per acre than agricultural use – often by a factor of 10 to 1. A recent US Geological Survey study of run off in Midwestern states found alarming rates of neonicitinoids (a systemic pesticide that enters all parts of a plant and does not break down quickly) in both urban and agricultural stream flows.
In 2015, the World Health Organization classified glyphosate as “a probable human carcinogen”. Glyphosate is a very widely used herbicide – weed killer – sold in local stores, used by agriculture and often sprayed in our parks to kill weeds.