A History, Advantages, and Disadvantages of the Use of Pesticides

Pesticides have been in use since before 2000 B.C. Many different substances have been used for pest control from sulfur, in ancient Mesopotamia, to synthetic pesticides, in the 1940's. Pesticides have their advantages and disadvantages, but the question is, are they really that bad? In my personal opinion, pesticides create more problems than they prevent. To begin, the advantages of pesticides all have their drawbacks. One aspect may be exceptional, however there are consequences to each. The primary advantage to society is the costs associated with using pesticides, "each dollar invested in pesticide control returns approximately 4$ in crops saved” (Pimentel 750). That being said, 10$ million invested becomes a 40$ million monetary gain. With this logic, any reasonable farmer would jump at the idea that they're saving money through the use of pesticides. The Food and Agriculture Organization has defined a pesticide as “any substance or mixture of substances, intended for preventing, destroying, or controlling any pest”, that being said, a fundamental benefit is the actual control of the pests in addition to the prevention of disease. Crops cannot be sold with damage from bugs and or any other harmful pest, because there is a risk for disease and illness.

The disadvantages are much larger than the advantages. The environmental impact is substantial amount. Not only is the use of pesticides harming the soil, but it is harmful to the air and water as well. It affects the air by “pesticide drift [, and it] occurs when pesticides suspended in the air as particles are carried by wind to other areas, potentially contaminating them”. The use of pesticides accounts for 6 percent of total tropospheric ozone levels. For water, pesticide residue can be found in the rain and groundwater, thus contaminating our water. The soil is contaminated by the over use of pesticides. As for the initial use of these chemicals, the pests being controlled/prevented/killed will naturally grow a resistance to the chemicals and newer, stronger, and more harmful pesticides will be created. The human effect of pesticides is quite terrifying. Pesticides contain many cancer causing agents and can affect children and adults.

Children are constantly playing outside in the grass, and pesticides affect the soil and travel through the air to contaminate the grass all around. The solutions to the use of pesticides are to convert to a more organic substance, eliminate the use of pesticides altogether, or do one of the many alternatives to pesticide use such as trap crops. Trap crops are using some plants as decoys so that the pests eat them instead of the sellable produce. Using this method is not very profitable, but the produce may still be edible. Eliminating the use of pesticides will realistically never be an option. There is too much of a stigma against imperfect produce. If more money went towards finding a way to prevent the illness side of pesticides, than it would be very beneficial, but it is much easier to simply use pesticides regardless of the health effects.

In conclusion, pesticide users will never let go of these chemicals unless a new, lost cost, efficient, easy to use, and good for the environment alternative is created. The advantages have drawbacks, and people are often not educated enough to know the real dangers that pesticides cause. There will always be preferences among farmers, but in reality the use of pesticides cannot be stopped unless laws are put in place. The advantages and disadvantages equal out and no changes will be made unless more people are made aware of the real damage caused by pesticides.