Why Do Farmers Use Pesticides?
Crop protection products keep the price of food in America less expensive. Without the use of pesticides, the price of food will go up as a direct result of crop loss due to weeds, insects, rodents and diseases. Each acre of U.S. cropland contains 50 to 300 million buried weed seeds. Before insecticides were used, 50% of the artichoke crop was lost to worms, and the FDA seized cans of blueberries infested with maggots. The Irish potato famine was caused by a fungus that still exists today. Before an insecticide was introduced to control it, the Colorado potato beetle eliminated 12 billion pounds of potatoes or one-third of the crop, resulting in price spikes. Each of these pests still exists today, and the losses would continue if we did not have chemical crop protection products to control them.
The top 10 companies that produce crop protection products invest an estimated $3.75 billion in research and development to discover, conduct tests to ensure safety and develop new products. Crop protection products increase productivity by 20-50%, thereby making it possible for consumers to choose from an abundant supply of fresh, high-quality foods that are affordable and accessible year-round.
How Are Pesticides Regulated? Are They Safe?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the government body responsible for regulating pesticides and assessing risks associated with these chemicals. This includes evaluating whether pesticides pose an unreasonable risk to humans and the environment and requiring pesticide registrations when applicable.
Before a crop protection product can be approved for use, it must be shown – through a series of tests and evaluations – that there is “reasonable certainty of no harm” to human health or the environment posed by its intended use, including pesticide residues that remain on food. EPA also makes special consideration when assessing pesticide risks and vulnerability for children, including evaluations for various age groups.
To minimize dangers of pesticides, EPA sets limits on how a product may be used, how often it may be used, what protective clothing or equipment must be used, along with other restrictions. EPA also protects the pesticide industry’s estimated 2.5 million employees through federal work protection standards.
There are 120 health, safety and environmental tests that ensure the safety and effectiveness of a pesticide product. On average, only one in 139,000 potential products make it through the regulatory process, costing manufacturers about $152 million to $256 million for each product introduced to the market.
Once a product makes it to market, a license may still be required to purchase the product because some pesticides must be sprayed by certified applicators. There are a host of regulations put in place to guarantee the safety of the producer and of the consumer.