Conventional food production in the United States incorporates a variety of pesticides. Farmers look to synthetic herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and fertilizers to add crop yields. These chemical applications have generated decades of documented problems for the environment, and are acknowledged to hold risks for human health as well. But the truth about just how toxic these chemicals are; and what levels of tolerance humans can safely withstand through food, water and air exposures is often hard to find. Regulators largely rely on scientific studies funded and directed by the agrichemical companies who market the chemicals to judge their safety, and funding and opportunities for independent analyses are limited.
In March 2015, one of the world’s most widely used herbicides, called glyphosate, was classified by the World Health Organization as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Other pesticides in use, including chlorpyrifos and 2,4-D, pose known dangers to people and the environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is promoting the expansion of new types of pesticides based on natural components rather than synthetic chemicals, called biopesticides. These are generally considered more environmentally friendly. But broad use of chemical pesticides continues, generating billions of dollars in sales for agrichemical companies.
Photo by Andrew Cannizzaro
Key Resources on Pesticides
Glyphosate: Health Concerns about the Most Widely Used Pesticide, USRTK Fact Sheet
The Monsanto Papers: Key documents and analysis and court cases involving Roundup
Carey Gillam’s Monsanto Roundup and Dicamba Trial Tracker – regular updates on litigation news
Reporting and analysis on Monsanto Roundup trials
The Dicamba Papers: Key documents and analysis and court cases involving dicamba