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Importance & Benefits of Pesticides

Pesticides are important. They help farmers grow more food on less land by protecting crops from pests, diseases and weeds as well as raising productivity per hectare.

Production of major crops has more than tripled since 1960, thanks in large part to pesticides.1 For example, rice – which feeds almost half the people on our planet – has more than doubled in production. The amount of wheat has increased nearly 160 percent.

All farmers use pesticides, including organic farmers. Whether from synthetic or natural sources, pesticides are used by all farmers. The difference is organic farmers can only use pesticides from natural sources. But both synthetic and natural pesticides have various levels of toxicity.

Without pesticides, more than half of our crops would be lost to pests and diseases. Between 26 and 40 percent of the world’s potential crop production is lost annually because of weeds, pests and diseases.2 Without crop protection, these losses could easily double.

Benefits of Pesticides
Food crops must compete with 30,000 species of weeds, 3,000 species of worms and 10,000 species of plant-eating insects. And threats don’t stop once crops leave fields – bugs, molds and rodents can all cause damage in storage. Pesticides can prolong the life of crops and prevent post-harvest losses.

Currently, about 925 million people around the world – one in seven of us – are going hungry. To reduce hunger, we need to increase food productivity. Pesticides help farmers do that.

Pesticides enable farmers to produce safe, quality foods at affordable prices. They also help farmers provide an abundance of nutritious, all-year-round foods, which are necessary for human health. Fruits and vegetables, which provide essential nutrients, are more abundant and affordable. Grains, milk and proteins, which are vital to childhood development, are more widely available because of lower costs to produce food and animal feed.

Pesticides enable farmers to produce safe, quality foods at affordable prices.

 
Crop quantity and quality rely on crop protection. For example, a U.S. study estimated that without fungicides, yields of most fruit and vegetables would fall by 50-90 percent. Moreover, pesticides decrease exposure to food contaminated with harmful micro-organisms and naturally occurring toxins, preventing food-related illnesses.

Pesticide residues on food are very low if present at all. Residues are measurable traces of pesticides on harvested food crops like apples, lettuce and corn. A typical residue could correspond to a few drops in an Olympic swimming pool or one kernel of maize in 3,000 kilograms of wheat.

In the European Union, for example, about half of all samples are free of detectable residue traces. In the remaining half (45%), residues are within the legal limits. Only about 2 percent of items tested exceed these limits, which still do not pose a safety issue.1

Minimizing and Monitoring Residues
The crop protection industry helps minimize residues in crops by training farmers on the proper use and lowest possible application levels of pesticides.

Regulators set very strict limits on pesticide residues. Consumers are protected by existing government legislation pertaining to maximum allowable residue levels on foods. Independent experts have concluded that regulated residue levels do not pose a threat to human health.

Any pesticide residues that may be on supermarket foods are well within safety limits and therefore, do not pose a health risk.


Systems are in place to monitor that residues are within safety limits. Hundreds of thousands of samples worldwide are analyzed for residues year after year. Testing shows that virtually all foods meet safety standards in terms of pesticide residues. Both organic and conventional foods are inspected by government authorities to avoid health risks.

Any pesticide residues that may be on supermarket foods are well within safety limits and therefore, do not pose a health risk. Due to huge safety margins, these residues do not pose a risk to human health, even if the legal limit for residues is exceeded. Nor are consumers at risk with potential exposure to multiple residues in food.

Pesticides are only approved for use if their potential residue levels are deemed safe for all consumers. Safety limits are set by authorities for each pesticide based on the amount of potential residue that can be consumed in a lifetime without posing any risk to health.

Good Consumer Practice
Washing fresh fruits and vegetables reduces pesticide residues. Studies show that some or most pesticide residues, if present, can be removed by washing produce under clean, running water.

Whether organically or conventionally produced, it is a good idea to wash all fruits and vegetables as pesticide residues can come from synthetic or natural sources. Scientific evidence shows that organic food is no safer or healthier than conventional food.


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