Thanks to Anthropocene, for this article, which adds to today’s green food theme:
by Emma Bryce
The dependence of modern agriculture on pesticides is a growing environmental problem, causing soil and water contamination, threatening wildlife, and severely harming human health. Increasingly, experts are pondering whether we really need to be applying pesticides with such reckless abandon to our crops. A group of researchers now says no: in fact, we could significantly reduce pesticide use and still maintain current productivity on most farms, they assert.
“We demonstrated that low pesticide use rarely decreases productivity and profitability of arable farms,” say the researchers, writing in a recent installment of Nature Plants. It helps to address a longstanding conflict around pesticides that has historically been split into two camps: those who say that without them, agricultural productivity would plummet and undermine food security, and others who say that the benefits of pesticides aren’t worth the risks they pose.
The group of French agricultural scientists started out by evaluating data on pesticide application and crop productivity from 946 non-organic French farms. France was a fitting context for the study: it’s Europe’s sixth biggest consumer of pesticides by agricultural area, and in recent years it’s also had a few pesticide scares, with drinking water found to be contaminated above legal limits with agricultural chemicals, the researchers note in their paper. Concerned by this trend, the country has set a target of slashing agricultural pesticides by half before 2025…
…But the findings come at a fortuitous time. The United Nations recently published a report that strongly criticizes agriculture’s continued dependence on pesticides. “Reliance on hazardous pesticides is a short-term solution,” it says, arguing that alternative farming methods that move us away from industrial agriculture, with its reliance on chemicals, are part of the solution. “It is possible to produce healthier, nutrient-rich food, with higher yields in the longer term, without polluting and exhausting environmental resources.”
Source: Lechenet et. al. “Reducing pesticide use while preserving crop productivity and profitability on arable farms.” Nature Plants. 2017.
Read the whole summary here.