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The Balance Sheet of Pesticides

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Image of positive signRecent studies by Cornell University suggest that the application of $10 billion dollars in pesticides each year in the US results in savings of $40 billion in crops.


Image of negative signHowever, the studies also suggest that there are ‘hidden’ annual costs of more than $9 billion from these pesticides in impacts on public health, resistance development in pests, accidental crop losses, bird poisonings, and contamination of ground water.

Image of an elephantSo the tally sheet would indicate pesticides today do more economic good than harm in the US—but significant negative impact is still being done to human health and the environment.

In some parts of the world where pesticide legislation is more lax or poorly enforced, the impacts are likely to be worse.

The message of Silent Spring—the need for caution in pesticide use and to consider all other options—is as relevant as ever.

5 billion
The world uses over 5 billion pounds (2.5 million US tons) of pesticides each year.

150 million
In the US, 150 million acres of crops are treated with systemic pesticides that suffuse through the whole plant. The most commonly used systemic insecticide is imidacloprid. Recent studies suggest imidacloprid may have adverse affects on honey bees.

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By one estimate, there are more than 16,000 pesticide products available in the USA.

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70 million
The US Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that over 70 million birds are killed by pesticides each year in the US.

80% of pesticides in the USA are used in agriculture.

The most commonly used herbicide today in the USA is glyphosate (trade name Roundup, Monsanto company, patent expired).