Obviously pesticides are bad for the environment

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com, or follow me on Twitter.

My mom bought Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring as soon as it came out, and my mom has been an ardent environmentalist ever since, so perhaps I’ve been hearing about this issue longer than most, but still, I hope this is just common sense. We create chemicals whose specific purpose is to disrupt a part of the eco-system: kill bugs. That is not a side effect, that is the intended effect. Then we produce millions of tons of the stuff and spray it in the most fertile areas of the world. Then we are shocked that there are consequences?

The lack of any limit on the total amount of pesticides used and the virtual absence of monitoring of their effects in the environment means it can take years for the impacts to become apparent, say Prof Ian Boyd and his colleague Alice Milner in a new article.

The damning assessment of pesticide regulations that are meant to protect the global environment follows a growing number of highly critical reports including research showing farmers could slash their pesticide use without losses and a UN report that denounced the “myth” that pesticides are necessary to feed the world.

“The current assumption underlying pesticide regulation – that chemicals that pass a battery of tests in the laboratory or in field trials are environmentally benign when they are used at industrial scales – is false,” state the scientists in their article published in the journal Science. Boyd is chief scientific adviser to the UK’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, where Milner also works on secondment, but their criticism reflects their own views.

“The effects of dosing whole landscapes with chemicals have been largely ignored by regulatory systems,” the scientists said. “This can and should be changed.” They contrast this situation with pharmaceuticals, for which there is a system of rigorous global monitoring after a drug is approved in case adverse effects emerge.

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