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What are the pros and cons of using pesticides? Do the pros outweigh the cons? Are there safe and environmentally- friendly pesticides? Is it really better to only farm/ purchase organic food?
Question Date: 2017-11-28
Answer 1:

Pesticides are a super controversial subject for sure! Some pros of pesticides:

- they help us grow more food which makes it easier for farmers to supply need and can help to cut costs. In some areas of the world, food is scarce and pesticides and other interventions can help bring food to the people. Less land can be dedicated to food production because of pesticides.

Cons of pesticides: the majority of them are not targeted which means they can kill other organisms that it wasn't meant to kill (like fish or beneficial bugs), there may be unintended health consequences for humans.

It's hard to really say if there are safe and environmentally-friendly pesticides. There's really no way to say for certain that a particular chemical will have absolutely no negative affect on any one thing. There are certainly pesticides that are more targeted and directed, which are better because they tend to go after just a specific pest.

It's important to remember that organic food is also treated with pesticides but these are "organic" pesticides (rotenone is one of them).

Often times these organic pesticides are used even more heavily than synthetic pesticides. There are certainly things that organic farming does much better than conventional farming such as crop rotation. However, organic food is not necessarily the "golden child" that it is made out to be. The question is still out there about whether organic foods are actually healthier for you than conventionally grown food. If you are looking for ways to eat more environmentally friendly, definitely seek out locally grown food! It's fresher and has to expend less carbon to travel to you. You can also talk to the farmer to see how they actually grow the food too.

Answer 2:

Pesticides help control pests that would otherwise eat the crops, which means that pesticide use can greatly improve the yields and quality of the food we grow. Another benefit is that pesticides can help control disease-causing agents , because they kill or discourage pests from approaching the crops and lower the chances of the pests coming in contact with humans.

As for the cons, we know that certain pesticides are extremely toxic to humans and animals, and sometimes the toxicity is not detected until a serious disease has begun to manifest, e.g. neurological problems or reproductive problems. The negative environmental effects of pesticides mainly consist of harm to animals and other crops , i.e. pesticides can enter the water and air and be carried off to unintended targets.

It is because of the benefits and the adverse effects that we still use pesticides, but have regulations on pesticide uses. Recently, we have started paying much more attention to environmentally friendly methods of pest control , such as genetic engineering for crops such that they produce molecules against the pests, releasing natural predators against pests, sterilizing male pests to stop the reproductive cycles of the pest population in a given area, and so on.

(A short note on genetically modified organisms, or GMOs - they are not as bad as the media makes them seem, and they're also not a new phenomenon . We have been breeding animals and crops for improvement for a long time.)

Some strategies also use biological pest control techniques such as pheromones that would be effective in changing insect behavior, but have negligible effects on humans and other unintended targets. As to the benefit of buying and farming only organically, it depends on the type of food and the type of pesticide. Regardless, it's still a good idea to clean food well before eating them =)

Answer 3:

Pesticides are poisons that kill insects . This is good because the vast majority of pests are insects and pesticides protect our crops

It's bad for three reasons:
(1) there are also good insects that we don't want to kill but our pesticides still do;
(2) there are non-insect animals that pesticides also harm (many are even deadly to humans!);
(3) using pesticides imposes natural selection on the insects it is used on, until eventually the insects we want to kill become immune to our pesticides, thus forcing us to use newer, more deadly pesticides.

Whether or not the pros outweigh the cons is dependent on each individual case. Some pesticides are less poisonous than others, some are more specific to certain species of insects than others, etc.

The ideal pesticide is deadly to the one species of pest that we are trying to kill and harmless to everyone and everything else , and pesticides that rely on virus particles and the like can be that specific. As technology improves, so does our ability to make better, less indiscriminate, pesticides.

Meanwhile, as for organic food, yes organic food is better if you can do it, but the reason why organic food is more expensive is because it is less efficient. Until we come up with a way to reduce the number of humans living on this planet, there is going to be forced to use pesticides.

Answer 4:

The benefit of pesticides is that it kills or prevents pests that eat or damage crops , and this saves farmers money by preventing losses due to spoiled crops. It can also help prevent food shortages by increasing food production yield and crop reliability. The drawbacks are the potential toxicity to humans and the potential costs to the environment.

One of the first people to document the adverse effects of pesticides (in particular DDT) was the environmental scientist Rachel Carson in her book, “Silent Spring” (1962) . This ultimately led to the creation of the EPA in 1970 which is the federal agency responsible for protecting human health and enforcing environmental regulations.

There are some biological alternatives to chemical pesticides such as home gardeners using lady bugs to control aphids instead of spraying chemicals. Some genetically modified organisms (GMO) are engineered to be resistant to pests. An example is genetically modified cotton which produces an insecticide to the bollworm. The drawback of genetically engineered crops is that they are expensive and sometimes banned in various countries.

It is not always necessary to buy organic food (you can research which foods are best to buy organic and which are not necessary), but it is generally a good idea to wash fruits and vegetables before you eat them.

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