False Heroes in Agriculture
Pesticides: The False Heroes in Agriculture
Farmers have utilized chemicals to protect crops from harmful bacteria and pests in the agricultural system for centuries. Pesticides, herbicides, insecticides… oh my! There is a wide and vast variety of chemicals used on crops that are supposed to heroically protect our health. With the regulations on chemical use in question, and the amount of chemicals being absorbed into the runoff soil and water, we can't help but ask: Are pesticides doing more harm than good? There are large to small differences and purposes among these common chemicals used in commercial farming. Here's the rundown of everything you need to know about agricultures’ false heroes of chemical protectants.
The definition of pesticides encompasses all chemicals used to destroy pests or other organisms that can harm plants and animals. These organisms come in many forms: fungi that attack plants, vicious bacteria that sneak into plants’ tissues, pests, and fungus gnats that feast on flesh and other bacteria, or multiplying weeds that steal nutrients and water away from crops. There are several types of pesticides, but two of the most common and widely used are herbicides and insecticides. Herbicides are used to kill undesirable plants or weeds. Herbicides are very powerful and are capable of destroying all the plants the chemical touches, while others are designed to target one species. Insecticides, on the other hand, are the chemicals that are used to specifically target and kill insects that feed on crops. Believe it or not, there are benefits of chemical use in agriculture. The use of pesticides can increases food production, which leads to an increase in profits for farmers. Pesticides also prevent diseases and illness associated with harmful bacterial growth and pest infestation. However, the growing health and environmental issues outweigh these evident benefits of chemical protectants used in agriculture.
About one billion pounds of pesticides are sprayed annually onto the crops of food that we eat. Different studies have concluded that the accumulation of pesticides that are consumed over time can lead to multiple forms of cancer, and can provoke endocrine disruption, which can cause birth defects in children. Pesticides used in agriculture not only affect our health but also wildlife, beneficial insects like bees, water quality, and air quality as well. Keeping our environment free of chemicals is almost as important as keeping our bodies clear of chemicals. There are hundreds of contradicting studies published on the possible dangers of chemicals like pesticides. This amplifies the fact that the regulatory systems in place needs to be enormously reconstructed. Each county adopts its own agricultural policies and limitations in the number of chemicals that can be used on crops. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for monitoring and regulating pesticides. In Europe, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is responsible for monitoring and regulating pesticides. The US and the EU’s approaches to regulations and policies for pesticide use are dramatically different. The contradicting regulation policies fog consumers reliance on the systems that were put in place to protect us.
Chemical protectants like pesticides used in farming today is a huge problem with towering risks. Fortunately, there are steps we the consumers can take to avoid exposure to these chemicals. Buying organic foods in your local grocery and farmers markets is a great and practical option. If organic foods are not available to you, washing your produce is effective in eliminating pesticide residues. Most importantly, creating a relationship with your local farmers and food distributors allows there to be an opportunity to ask questions about the way their crops are cultivated. The intention of revealing these chemical protectant heroes in our food is to publicize the lack of transparency in agriculture that we are faced with today. Let's be a part of making chemical-free eating a choice for everyone, regardless of the regulatory system you reside under.