[X] CLOSEMAIN MENU

  • Archives

  • Categories

    • air pollution (8)
    • Announcements (604)
    • Antibiotic Resistance (41)
    • Antimicrobial (18)
    • Aquaculture (30)
    • Aquatic Organisms (37)
    • Bats (7)
    • Beneficials (52)
    • Biofuels (6)
    • Biological Control (34)
    • Biomonitoring (40)
    • Birds (26)
    • btomsfiolone (1)
    • Bug Bombs (2)
    • Cannabis (30)
    • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (10)
    • Chemical Mixtures (8)
    • Children (113)
    • Children/Schools (240)
    • cicadas (1)
    • Climate (30)
    • Climate Change (86)
    • Clover (1)
    • compost (6)
    • Congress (20)
    • contamination (155)
    • deethylatrazine (1)
    • diamides (1)
    • Disinfectants & Sanitizers (19)
    • Drift (17)
    • Drinking Water (16)
    • Ecosystem Services (15)
    • Emergency Exemption (3)
    • Environmental Justice (167)
    • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (535)
    • Events (89)
    • Farm Bill (24)
    • Farmworkers (198)
    • Forestry (5)
    • Fracking (4)
    • Fungal Resistance (6)
    • Fungicides (26)
    • Goats (2)
    • Golf (15)
    • Greenhouse (1)
    • Groundwater (16)
    • Health care (32)
    • Herbicides (43)
    • Holidays (39)
    • Household Use (9)
    • Indigenous People (6)
    • Indoor Air Quality (6)
    • Infectious Disease (4)
    • Integrated and Organic Pest Management (71)
    • Invasive Species (35)
    • Label Claims (49)
    • Lawns/Landscapes (251)
    • Litigation (344)
    • Livestock (9)
    • men’s health (4)
    • metabolic syndrome (3)
    • Metabolites (4)
    • Microbiata (22)
    • Microbiome (28)
    • molluscicide (1)
    • Nanosilver (2)
    • Nanotechnology (54)
    • National Politics (388)
    • Native Americans (3)
    • Occupational Health (16)
    • Oceans (11)
    • Office of Inspector General (4)
    • perennial crops (1)
    • Pesticide Drift (163)
    • Pesticide Efficacy (10)
    • Pesticide Mixtures (14)
    • Pesticide Regulation (783)
    • Pesticide Residues (185)
    • Pets (36)
    • Plant Incorporated Protectants (2)
    • Plastic (8)
    • Poisoning (20)
    • Preemption (45)
    • President-elect Transition (2)
    • Reflection (1)
    • Repellent (4)
    • Resistance (119)
    • Rights-of-Way (1)
    • Rodenticide (33)
    • Seasonal (3)
    • Seeds (6)
    • soil health (17)
    • Superfund (5)
    • synergistic effects (23)
    • Synthetic Pyrethroids (16)
    • Synthetic Turf (3)
    • Take Action (596)
    • Textile/Apparel/Fashion Industry (1)
    • Toxic Waste (12)
    • U.S. Supreme Court (1)
    • Volatile Organic Compounds (1)
    • Women’s Health (26)
    • Wood Preservatives (36)
    • World Health Organization (11)
    • Year in Review (2)
  • Most Viewed Posts

Daily News Blog

07
Dec

Developed Countries with 18% of World Population Responsible for 49% of Pesticide Hazard Footprint

(Beyond Pesticides, December 7, 2022) A recent study from Australian researchers has investigated pesticide use through an unusual lens — by quantifying the environmental footprints of pesticide use in 82 countries and territories (and eight regions), and then concluding that international trade drives significant pesticide use. The researchers identify the U.S., Brazil, and Spain as the biggest exporters of the “pesticide hazard load” associated with those environmental footprints, and China, the United Kingdom, and Germany as the top three importers. They lay responsibility for this hazard load at the feet of the unsustainable intensification of chemical-intensive agriculture (via synthetic pesticide and fertilizer use during the past 50 years), and ratcheting consumer demand for goods and services. Indeed, they conclude that the latter, in “developed” countries, is responsible for a substantial portion of the pesticide pollution in other countries.

The study authors note that previous “efforts to quantify the environmental footprints of global production and consumption have covered a wide range of indicators, including greenhouse gas emissions, water scarcity, biodiversity, nitrogen pollution, acidification, land use, and others, but they have largely missed . . . represent[ing] the environmental pressures exerted by pesticide use.” The researchers set themselves the task of quantifying the “footprints” of pesticide use, from producers to final consumers, in order to map how international trade drives pesticide use, and identify potential repercussions if/when a nation’s policy were to shift from domestic production toward increased importation. They note that prior research has evidenced impacts of specific products and processes, but has not accounted for the role of globalization and international trade.

The researchers remind readers that the intensity of chemical-dependent agriculture (which uses copious amounts of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers) is unsustainable; these practices degrade both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, deplete water resources, and contribute to the climate crisis, among other impacts. Beyond Pesticides has spent its tenure demonstrating that pesticide use has huge impacts on the functions of ecosystems, biodiversity (and insect and pollinator loss, especially), natural resources, and human health.

The study employs an unusual metric in its investigation; it defines pesticide footprints as the “hazard load” of pesticides used for crop production to satisfy consumer demand for food (for humans and animals), textiles, and services that utilize either. They define hazard load (HL) as the measurement of the total body weight of nontarget organisms that would be required to absorb pesticides accumulating in the environment. The higher the HL, the greater the environmental pressure related to consumption. (The study analyzed only the use of insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides on croplands, did not account for pesticide impacts on human health or for acute exposure impacts, and used data from 2015.)

The researchers’ analyses account for roughly 79% of global pesticide use, and 70%, 70%, and 63%, respectively, of use in Brazil, the U.S., and China, the world’s top three pesticide consumers. Insecticides, according to the researchers, contribute 80% of the global insecticide footprint, and herbicides, 10%. The study’s methodology included estimating residual pesticides — the amounts remaining in the environment after application. Of the 3.24 tonnes (or 3.57 U.S. tons) of pesticides analyzed, the study finds that roughly 9.3% accumulated as residues in the environment.

That amount of residue translates to a hazard load of about 2 gigatonnes (2,204,622,622 U.S. tons) of organismic body weight (see last paragraph), 34% of which the team attributes to consumption by developed countries (which house 18% of global population), and 66% to consumption in developing countries, which represent most of the world’s people. Try, for a moment, to imagine how many organisms that HL would require; it is a stupefying quantity that would be required to absorb the environmental residue from that 79% of global pesticide deployment.

The world’s pesticide footprint is distributed across sectors, with plant-based foods comprising the largest portion at 59%; the orchard fruit and grapes sector accounts for a whopping 17% of the global figure. Animal-based foods contribute roughly 11%. Strikingly, the study finds that “17% of the pesticide footprints in developed countries is attributed to the consumption of empty calorie food products such as soft drinks, alcoholic drinks, chocolates, ice-creams, and sugars. In contrast, these food items contribute only 9% of the footprints in developing countries.” Clothing and other textile sectors comprise 4% of the global pesticide footprint; consumption of food and textile products in the service and industrial sectors are responsible for another 13%.

The well-known outsized environmental footprint of the developed economies/countries in other regards (climate, water consumption, energy use, et al.) is borne out in the pesticide footprints, as well. The study authors assert that approximately “49% of pesticide footprints caused by the consumption in developed countries [— which harbor only 18% of global population — is] embodied in international trade (i.e., the pesticide hazard loads were occurring abroad), while the consumption of imported goods contributes only 23% of the pesticide footprints in developing countries.

Roughly 32% of global pesticide footprints are traded internationally (i.e., 32% of global pesticide hazard loads occurred outside of the country of final consumption). More than 90% of pesticide footprints imported by some European countries were caused by active pesticide substances/ingredients that were banned for use in those importing countries. (See Beyond Pesticides coverage of the direct export of banned pesticides here and here.)

The study finds that China is the biggest net importer of goods with embodied HLs from insecticides and herbicides, followed by Germany, the UK (United Kingdom), Japan, and India. (“A net importer exerts more environmental pressures (i.e., more pesticide hazard loads) abroad due to their consumption than locally for exports, and vice versa for net exporters.”) The U.S. is the largest net exporter of goods with insecticide- and herbicide-embodied HLs, followed by Brazil; 34% of the U.S. HL exports head to China. Roughly 61% of pesticide footprints carried in Brazil’s exports is caused by consumption in developed countries, especially the U.S., Germany, and the UK.

The study traced the flows of such embodied pesticide footprints along international trade supply lines, and found that the biggest flow moves from the U.S. to China, mostly due to soybeans and other grain/legume commodities. As for impacts of human food crops, orchard fruits and grapes yield the highest footprints (per unit mass and calories), and wheat the lowest. Soybeans show the lowest footprint among protein-rich crops; meat registers a slightly higher footprint per unit.

Having tracked and quantified the pesticide footprints of commodities as they are exported and imported around the world, the authors conclude: “A reciprocal pesticide regulation may need to be implemented for imports to discourage the consumption of imported commodities produced using the substances banned in the importing country. Countries importing pesticide footprint should also contribute a fair share in the effort to develop technology for sustainable pest management and the implementation of remediation projects to reduce pesticide contamination in exporting countries. To reduce environmental impacts from global food production, our study suggests that, in addition to sustainable pest management strategies that reduce pesticide use, the strategy of shifting human diet towards plant-based foods should be accompanied by the promotion of awareness to minimize food waste and food loss, reduction of overconsumption, and a decrease in the consumption of empty-calorie foods.”

The authors make valuable points about the responsibility of countries not to export banned pesticides, about the importance of reducing waste and overconsumption, about the pesticide footprint of nutritionally empty food items, and the advisement of shifting to more plant-based foods in the diets of, especially, developed nations. Yet, as with so much research on which Beyond Pesticides reports, conclusions that argue for “reduction” of pesticide use, “sustainable” pesticide use, integrated pest management (IPM), and the like — though well-intentioned — seem to miss the fundamental point. No incremental “reductions,” or IPM, will halt the ubiquitous number and variety of downstream impacts of pesticide use, never mind deal with what has already been deployed. Right now, pesticides are damaging pollinator populations, adding to the human chemical body burden, catalyzing disease processes, launching trophic cascades, degrading agricultural soils, and so much more.

Only agricultural and other land management practices that eliminate petrochemical pesticides and fertilizers — what in the U.S. we call organic production — would stop the toxic flow of pesticides, many of which have never undergone adequate risk evaluations. Please consider helping Beyond Pesticides advocate for the transition to organic regenerative agriculture, and other benign land management approaches. You can join/contribute, take up the issue in your local community, organize with others for state-level action, and more; let us know if we can help: [email protected] or 202.543.5450.

Source: https://www.nature.com/articles/s43247-022-00601-8

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

 

Share

Leave a Reply

  • Archives

  • Categories

    • air pollution (8)
    • Announcements (604)
    • Antibiotic Resistance (41)
    • Antimicrobial (18)
    • Aquaculture (30)
    • Aquatic Organisms (37)
    • Bats (7)
    • Beneficials (52)
    • Biofuels (6)
    • Biological Control (34)
    • Biomonitoring (40)
    • Birds (26)
    • btomsfiolone (1)
    • Bug Bombs (2)
    • Cannabis (30)
    • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (10)
    • Chemical Mixtures (8)
    • Children (113)
    • Children/Schools (240)
    • cicadas (1)
    • Climate (30)
    • Climate Change (86)
    • Clover (1)
    • compost (6)
    • Congress (20)
    • contamination (155)
    • deethylatrazine (1)
    • diamides (1)
    • Disinfectants & Sanitizers (19)
    • Drift (17)
    • Drinking Water (16)
    • Ecosystem Services (15)
    • Emergency Exemption (3)
    • Environmental Justice (167)
    • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (535)
    • Events (89)
    • Farm Bill (24)
    • Farmworkers (198)
    • Forestry (5)
    • Fracking (4)
    • Fungal Resistance (6)
    • Fungicides (26)
    • Goats (2)
    • Golf (15)
    • Greenhouse (1)
    • Groundwater (16)
    • Health care (32)
    • Herbicides (43)
    • Holidays (39)
    • Household Use (9)
    • Indigenous People (6)
    • Indoor Air Quality (6)
    • Infectious Disease (4)
    • Integrated and Organic Pest Management (71)
    • Invasive Species (35)
    • Label Claims (49)
    • Lawns/Landscapes (251)
    • Litigation (344)
    • Livestock (9)
    • men’s health (4)
    • metabolic syndrome (3)
    • Metabolites (4)
    • Microbiata (22)
    • Microbiome (28)
    • molluscicide (1)
    • Nanosilver (2)
    • Nanotechnology (54)
    • National Politics (388)
    • Native Americans (3)
    • Occupational Health (16)
    • Oceans (11)
    • Office of Inspector General (4)
    • perennial crops (1)
    • Pesticide Drift (163)
    • Pesticide Efficacy (10)
    • Pesticide Mixtures (14)
    • Pesticide Regulation (783)
    • Pesticide Residues (185)
    • Pets (36)
    • Plant Incorporated Protectants (2)
    • Plastic (8)
    • Poisoning (20)
    • Preemption (45)
    • President-elect Transition (2)
    • Reflection (1)
    • Repellent (4)
    • Resistance (119)
    • Rights-of-Way (1)
    • Rodenticide (33)
    • Seasonal (3)
    • Seeds (6)
    • soil health (17)
    • Superfund (5)
    • synergistic effects (23)
    • Synthetic Pyrethroids (16)
    • Synthetic Turf (3)
    • Take Action (596)
    • Textile/Apparel/Fashion Industry (1)
    • Toxic Waste (12)
    • U.S. Supreme Court (1)
    • Volatile Organic Compounds (1)
    • Women’s Health (26)
    • Wood Preservatives (36)
    • World Health Organization (11)
    • Year in Review (2)
  • Most Viewed Posts