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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

16 - Pesticides


“Good soil is not just dirt. It is a hive of life, much of it either microscopic or even disgusting to urban eyes because urbanites don't understand the need for the growth and decay of slimy things to sustain life. Good farmers are not just people who dig in the dirt. They are the stewards of healthy soil.”

George B. Pyle, Land Institute, Salina, Kansas

Pesticide use is both controversial and prevalent. Many individuals believe pesticides are necessary to destroy the enemies of human agriculture and health. Others believe we can use organic farming to accomplish these ends without synthetic pesticides. Another group believes pesticides are needed, but recognizes their limitations, and use integrated pest management to minimize pesticide use. There is no simple answer, but we do need answers. Consider this challenge from the authors of an article called, Can green chemistry promote sustainable agriculture? “Human population is increasing. Demand for food is rising … Environmental impacts are worsening. Taken together, few issues reflect the difficulties of sustainable development more than the problem of controlling pests and increasing food production while protecting the environment and conserving natural resources.” Section I of this chapter overviews what pesticides are, why we use them, and who uses them. Section II looks at pesticides as pollutants, where exposure occurs, their impacts on non-target species, and pesticide resistance. Section III examines how we can reduce the risk of pesticides by regulation, by changing the nature of pesticides, and by changing farming methods.

Further reading
Halweil, B. Can organic farming feed us all? World Watch, 19(3), May/June, 2006, 18–24.
Ritter, S. K. Greening the farm. Chemical & Engineering News, 87(07), February 16, 2009, 13–20.
Internet resources
Ademe, M. S. 2003. Ademe, M. S. Progress in farmer field school, IPM in Ethiopia. (March, 2003).
,American Bird Conservancy. 2007. Frequently asked questions on pesticides and birds.
,FAO Newsroom. 2007. Meeting the food security challenge through organic agriculture. (May 3, 2007).
Hendriadi, A. and Alihamsyah, T. 2007. Sustainable agriculture development in Indonesia. (November 23, 2007).
Koehler, P. G. and Belmont, R. A. 1998. What are pesticides? (how they exert toxic effects). University of Florida. (March, 1998).
,Maryland Department of Agriculture. 1999. Integrated pest management (IPM) and sustainable agriculture: What you need to know about IPM. MD_ipmsupmanual.pdf (September, 1999).
Matthews, G. 2008. IPM. Scitopics, (November 7, 2008).
,NASA. 2009. National pesticide survey. Global Change National Directory, (February 27, 2009).
,NCAT. 2008. Organic farming. (August 26, 2008).
,National Pesticide Information Center, NPIC. 2009. NPIC makes available chemical, health, and environmental information on more than 600 active pesticide ingredients found in over 50,000 pesticide products. This includes toxicological and product-label information, cleanup and disposal procedures, and information on US pesticide regulations. The NPIC also accepts complaints about pesticides. Its toll-free line is 1–800–858–7378, 6:30 A.M.–4:30 P.M. (PST), 7 days a week (or e-mail at NPIC is an EPA-sponsored hotline.
,National Pesticide Information Center, NPIC. Pesticide fact sheets
,National Pesticide Telecommunications Network. 2000. Inert or other ingredients. (December, 2000).
,Oregon State University. 2007. History of pesticide use, DDT. (January 28, 2007).
,Science Daily. 2008. Low concentrations of pesticides can become toxic mixture for amphibians. (November 18, 2008).
,US EPA. 2008. Pesticides, frequent questions. (August 26, 2008).
,US EPA 2008. What are biopesticides? (October 15, 2008).
,US EPA 2008. Pesticide tolerances. (December 18, 2008).
,US EPA 2008. Pesticide issue: honey bee colony collapse disorder. (October, 2008).
,US EPA 2009. About EPA's pesticide program. (January 29, 2009).
,US EPA 2009. Pesticides, A-Z index. (March 20, 2009).
,US EPA 2009. What is a pesticide? (February 3, 2009).
,US Fish & Wildlife Service. 2008. Environmental contaminants: IPM program. (September 24, 2008).
,USGS. 2007. Pesticides in ground water. (November 17, 2007).
,USGS 2007. Pesticides in the nation's streams and ground water, 1992–2001. (February 15, 2007).
,University of California. 2008. IPM: how to manage pests.