The Origins of Pesticides in Food
Pesticides in foods are very dangerous, and in extreme cases have been known to cause birth defects, breathing disorders, and skin irritations, and have been linked to certain cancers. If pesticides are so deadly, why are they used and how did farmers start using them in the first place?
There are a few reasons why pesticides are used and allowed by governments around the world. One is that the population explosion seen in the last century has put excess demands on crops and farmlands. Without a healthy crop each and every year, food prices would be driven up so as to be out of the reach of many. Farms, like other businesses, price foods according to supply and demand. Where there is more demand than there is supply, sellers can raise their prices. Without a healthy crop every year, there would also be food shortages even in developed countries so there would be more who go without food.
Using pesticides has allowed farmers to see an increase in crop growth and to have a larger crop yield, that is, to have more of their crop survive a growing season. Insects, animals, and other vegetation growing around their crops are all dangerous and threaten their success, so farmers must do what they can to protect and preserve their crops during a growing cycle.
Pesticides in one form or another have been around for centuries; any substance a farmer uses to control pests and weeds is considered a pesticide, and various substances have been recorded as being successful throughout all of history. Sulfur was used thousands of years ago, and poisonous substances such as lead or arsenic were used in the 15th century. Until the 1950s, arsenic-based insecticides were very common.
The chemical compound DDT, developed in the late 1800s, was found to be a very effective pesticide and was commonly used until 1975, when tests revealed its dangers to humans. It has been banned in the United States and other countries.
In the 1940s, due to advances in laboratory studies and factory production lines, manufacturers began creating synthetic pesticides more abundantly and their use increased some 50-fold since 1950 and beyond. Millions of tons of pesticides are now manufactured and shipped every year around the world, with developing countries seeing their use becoming more and more common as they become more affordable.
Today many pesticides are created with organic and natural ingredients that are less harmful to crops and to the groundwater and soil, and which are safer for humans. Organic farmers also use other means of protecting their crops, such as introducing certain forms of insects that feed on pests or by using crop rotation so that they will have a stronger yield of crops with each growing cycle. If you’re concerned about your health and the effects of pesticides on your food and your family, you would do well to investigate their use in your area and then decide on the best produce to buy.