Did you know the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allows the registration of over 34,000 harmful pesticides for agricultural use in the United States today? Despite studies conducted by the EPA that showed eating organic foods protects children from these organophosphate pesticides, the EPA allows such methods to be used in industrial farming. With 75% of land in the U.S. utilized to grow food and livestock, industrial agriculture relies on these chemicals to prosper. But where has this taken us? What are the billions of pounds of pesticides and herbicides used for? This method undoubtedly sources major problems. Here are the five ways pesticides have taken over:
- Pesticide exposure
As a nation, we like to think we care for our farmers, right? However, pesticide exposure leads to more chemical-related injuries and illnesses to farmworkers than that of any other workforces. These pesticides, malathion and chlorpyrifos being two of the worst, are banned from residential use. However, they are open for use in agriculture, despite the fact they are powerful enough for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Pesticide Data Program to find that residues of these organophosphate pesticides are still detected in food items after production, often being consumed by children. With these chemicals being linked to harmful neurological effects to humans, it is no surprise that this has lead to farmers suffering from organ damage and cancer.
- Drinking water
Live in an agricultural area? Watch out for your drinking water. While about 95% of the U.S. relies on groundwater for drinking, pesticides often contaminate it. This is especially costly when you live in a region with heavy agriculture where the pesticides are most often used. These chemicals have the ability to travel into our water in many ways, through aquifers below ground due to the application on crop fields, spills and leaks, improper disposal, and seepage into surface water. It is hard to dispose of these pesticides due to their power, and chemicals can take decades to appear in the groundwater. Ocean life has taken the toll as well, negatively affecting fish, crabs, aquatic mammals and even micro-algae.
- Pesticide drift
Feel like you’re in need of a breath of fresh air? Good luck! Pesticide “drift” is a common issue now. This is when you cannot take a single breath without breathing in pesticides that fill the air. This has lead to more babies being born with birth defects that are perfectly preventable, however derive from pesticide exposure. UC Berkeley found in a study that children are introduced to pesticides long before they eat their first fruit or vegetable, due to the chemicals showing up in the mothers breast milk.
- Laced in food
We all fear the stories we hear about “candy apple laced with (insert crazy drug here).” But what about the chemicals we do not receive an obvious affect from, such as pesticides? Illnesses of the general population have rose, such as asthma, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, birth defects, reproductive dysfunction, diabetes and more. The correlation of pesticide exposure and these issues only become more evident with each new study conducted. It is undoubtedly a long-term issue for our health when consuming these chemicals. Why not treat them like an illegal drug? Most of our food is laced with pesticide residues that are impossible to be washed off. Only organically grown food is free from such an issue.
- Bug life
GMO crops are developed and sold to withstand large amounts of pesticide and herbicide spraying that lead to millions of acres of “super weed” growth. This follows with “super bugs” that are resistant to the chemicals designed to terminate them. Besides how creepy this may seem, some bugs have not followed with such strength. Organophosphates work on insects by attacking the nervous system of the pests. This lead to threatening the life of normal insects that did not evolve into “super bugs.” Pollinating insects, such as bees and butterflies, have been nearly destroyed by pesticides and herbicides. These little creatures serve us in tremendous ways through the pollination of many foods, yet, what a surprise, many are dying at an unprecedented rate when exposed to such chemicals.
With all the alarming issues stated above, why does the EPA continue to allow the use of detrimental chemicals to be employed by Big Ag companies? While we still struggle as a nation to trust our government-run organizations that surround food regulation, this is only the beginning. If these 34,000 registered chemicals are not enough to produce the world food, undoubtedly, more dangerous chemicals will be brought forth to solve the “issue.” We need to figure out the real problem. Pesticides harm the hormones, immune system, nervous system, reproductive system and other organs of us humans. What really makes the long-term risk be masked by the short term “benefits?”
Written by Madison Carrier