Reducing Agricultural Pesticides Has No Adverse Effects on Profits, Study Shows

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It is possible for virtually all farms to significantly cut back on their use of dangerous pesticides and still produce the same amount of food, according to new research published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Plants.

The researchers reported that low pesticide use “rarely decreases productivity and profitability in arable farms.”

The research, which was conducted on nearly 1,000 French farms, found that 94 percent would see no decrease in production if they cut back on their pesticide use, and two-fifths would even see production increase. In addition, reducing pesticide use would not affect farm profits in over three-quarters of cases, according to the researchers.

This new research challenges the claims of the billion-dollar pesticide industry, which has long argued that its products are essential to food production, particularly as the global population continues to increase. Farmers faced with this false information are often wrongfully convinced that there is no alternative, even when these farmers worry about the repercussions of these chemicals on their own health, reports the Guardian.

“While we have a system where farmers are advised by agronomists, most of whom work on commission for agrochemical companies, then inevitably pesticides will be massively overused,” said Professor Dave Goulson from the University of Sussex. “Even the few independent agronomists struggle to get independent information and advice to pass on to farmers.”

“If you want real reduction in pesticide use, give the farmers the information about how to replace them,” said Nicolas Munier-Jolain, at France’s National Institute for Agricultural Research, and a member of the team that conducted the new study. Meunier-Jolain notes that farmers who use only low levels of pesticides can use other methods of pest control, such as crop rotation and mechanical weeding, to keep their crops free of insects and other pests.

A March study conducted by UN food and pollution experts showed that not only do pesticides have “catastrophic” effects on health and the environment, but that pesticide manufacturers have engaged in a “systematic denial of harms” with regard to their products’ effects. A February study, meanwhile, showed that organic agriculture, which is devoid of dangerous pesticides, was more profitable for farmers than conventional.

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Emily Monaco
Emily Monaco

Emily Monaco is an American food and culture writer based in Paris. She loves uncovering the stories behind ingredients and exposing the face of our food system, so that consumers can make educated choices. Her work has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Vice Munchies, and Serious Eats.