Risk/Benefit Analysis: Insecticides and Pesticides History records that agricultural chemicals have been used since ancient times; the ancient Romans are known to have used burning sulfur to control insects, as well as using salt to control weeds. Many other ideas such as these originated hundreds of years ago all over the world and have continued to develop over time into today’s use of insecticide and pesticide use that we see in today’s agricultural practices. Coming from a small farming based community in southern Alberta I would like to look into the issue of insecticide and pesticide use in farming, the risks and benefits of their use to gain a better understanding of what they mean to the industry, the environment, and to myself to see if there use is a safe and environmentally friendly practice. Before we get into the risks and benefits of insecticide and pesticide use, we should become familiar with what they are and what they do. Pesticides are used to reduce the numbers of pests so that the potential quantity or quality of the product is maintained, public health is protected, or labor and maintenance costs are decreased. They are used by people as intentional applications to the environment to improve environmental quality for humans, domesticated animals, and plants.
The word pesticide is an all-inclusive term that includes a number of individual chemicals designed specifically for the control of certain pests. Pesticide is also to include chemical compounds that stimulate or retard the growth of plants. When hearing the word pesticide it is almost naturally assumed that farmers are the primary users. However, as new chemicals were produced, new methods of formulation were developed and new application techniques discovered, new groups found uses for pesticides.
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Today, pesticides are still a major part of agriculture’s production tools, but have also found uses by industry, provincial, and federal government, municipalities, and public as a whole, including homeowners and backyard gardeners. The percent of use by agriculture has declined to approximately 50% of the total pesticide production, where as approximately 20% of purchases are to those people who live in cities and towns. Now that we have got a better understanding of pesticides and insecticides, what they refer to and who uses them I would like to look at the risks that can or may result from the use of these chemicals. Naturally the first and most obvious risk that comes to mind is what is to happen to us, humans, when we come in contact with or are exposed to these chemicals.
Of course as we are referring to chemicals it is assumed that immediate exposure to or ingestion of these chemicals, or any chemicals for that matter could be seriously sickening or even fatal, as would be that case in regards to exposure of any chemicals for that matter not simply the chemicals used in pesticides and insecticides. Another major concern with the application of these chemicals is the effect that they are going to have on the organisms that they are not suppose to be controlling and coming in contact with, but as they are sprayed on they inevitably will be coming into contact with. This concern is a very broad, not only is the chemicals coming into contact with other life forms that there not intended to, but they are also getting into other animals that feed upon the crop or plant. What are the effects on these animals, and the animals which feed upon those animals, and so on and so on. When these chemicals are applied what happens when they get into our water system? There are also problems with the application of these chemicals such of spray drift and deposition. When being applied the air-born chemicals may drift into a neighboring field, not necessarily killing it but could effect to the quality of what is to be produced, or for that matter the chemicals could possibly drift in to the neighboring town affecting the people of the town as well as animals and the town vegetation.
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Another risk or concern with the use of pesticides and insecticides are that is there application always a must? In a number of cases in orchard of fruits and vegetables is it a must to have spotless apples just so that they become more eye appealing if it means applying another chemical to the crop. Before one should make up his mind that the use of pesticides and insecticides in society are a bad, we should take a look at the benefits provided when used before we make up our mind on the issue of if there good or bad. The first and foremost benefit of the use of these chemicals comes economically in the aid that they give in the production and quality of agricultural goods. Even with the use of pesticides and insecticides it is estimated that there is still a loss of one-third in crop production and that this number would be set to double if pesticides and insecticides were not used or were made so that they couldn’t be used. There are a number of benefits that occur because of their use and if they could no longer be used a number of things would happen such as farm costs and prices would increase, the average consumer family would spend much, much more on food, farm exports would be reduced, and much more land would be needed in order to make up for the loss in production. Not only does the use of pesticides and insecticides dramatically increase the amount we can produce, but they also increase the quality of the food that they are being applied too.
The benefits of the uses of these chemicals also come into play in other aspects of many peoples lives. Such chemicals are used on golf courses to limit the amount of mosquitoes that are inevitably present at such a place. This situation also happens in many cities and towns to make the time that people in the community spend outdoors much more enjoyable. Taking a further look at the risks and the benefits of pesticide and insecticide use it comes to be really clear that benefits of their use most defiantly out way the risks. This can be based only strictly on the economic benefits that come from there use.
With out such chemicals being used much more people would be going malnourished in the world today then what already are, and it would be quite possible that people in North America and Canada would be at this risk as well as more people in other countries in which we export too. The loss of these chemicals use would have a rippling effect in society as the cost of what we eat, say a loaf of bread, would increase, which would lead to the consumer have less money for other foods and goods for that matter which would affect all of industry, not only agriculture. When looking at the concerns that many people have about the use of pesticides and insecticides it is quite possibly to put many of these to rest. Although it is relatively unstudied there has been no clear evidence that exists on the long-term effects on humans of the accumulation of pesticides through the food chain, or through exposure on the farm or in small communities from them being applied through spraying. Naturally being exposed to them first hand can be a health issue, but that is no different then may other chemical substances in our world.
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With the use of chemicals there are many rules and regulations that go along with their use to provide safety with their use. All of these chemicals must be registered through government departments that they are safe and un-harmful to the environment. People must be trained or licensed on how to handle and apply the chemical. There are also strict laws on how they are stored and disposed of so that a large amount doesn’t leak out just anywhere contaminating the ground, killing other animals, or getting into the water system.
In conclusion when considering the benefits of pesticide and insecticides use in an economic perspective alone and considering that it is quite simple to lay to rest many of the concerns about there use, I find it quite easy to come to the conclusion that the use of these chemicals are a must in our world today.