Pesticides Abroad, but Mostly at Home


In a recent op-ed for the Cornucopia Institute, writer and organic food proponent Max Goldberg referenced a recent study out of Australia that showed a 90% reduction of organophosphates (pesticides) in adults after just one week of eating an organic diet. Though the study only used 13 people, it provides a compelling argument for to lowering your intakes of non-organic food.

Avoiding pesticides in food is hard (and getting harder) according to the latest Economic Information Bulletin from the USDA Economic Research Service. This report analyzed pesticide used in the 21 crops that account for 70% of pesticides used in the US over the last 48 years. Because this was a USDA report, the results were plentiful.

Some of the major highlights:

  • Pesticide use more than tripled from 1960 to 1981 and has since fallen only slightly; Expenditures on pesticides have shown a steady rising trend (see chart below), there has been a marked switch from more use of insecticides to a much higher use of herbicides (superweeds, anyone?);

  • Corn and soy are the number one and two crops for pesticide use accounting for 39% and 22% of total pesticides used in the U.S. respectively; and,

  • Five major crops (corn, soy, cotton, wheat and potatoes) account for 80% of all pesticides used in the US.  

Calling out the dangers of GMO’s and their tendency to create pesticide resistant species, the report shows that:

Emerging pest management policy issues include the development of glyphosate-resistant weed populations associated with the large increase in glyphosate use since the late 1990s, the development of Bt-resistant western corn rootworm in some areas, and the arrival of invasive or exotic pest species, such as soybean aphid and soybean rust, which can influence pesticide use patterns and the development of Integrated Pest Management programs."

Download the full USDA report here.



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