A pesticide may refer to a particular compound or chemical substance. It can be a fungicide, herbicide, insecticide, mulluscicide, nematicide, rodenticide, and others that are used to target certain unwanted living organism.
Since the 1900s, people have been using different types of pesticides and the environment is filled with various levels of these chemicals. These include organochlorine, organophosphate, carbamates, and pyrethroids, which all became successful in controlling pests. However, consumers have to be aware of the positive and negative impact of these chemicals on the environment.
There are positive effects of using pesticides and the environment actually benefits from the direct or indirect results of pesticide application.
One major benefit of pesticide use is the eradication of certain species that pose threats to forest trees. For example, budworms or loopers can kill thousands of trees due to defoliation. To address this, scientists have studied the Bacillus thuringiensis var. Kurstaki or Btk, a bacterium that naturally occurs in the environment. It can kill insects, hemlock looper, larvae, and budworms.
Btk was then developed into a biological insecticide and was made available in the market. Its primary purpose is to control pests in forests and agricultural settings.
More yield from smaller areas results from the use of pesticides and the environment indirectly benefits when the farmers and agricultural government agencies do not have to disturb forested areas just to grow more crops. Today, a small land area dedicated to crop production can double or even triple yield with the combination of pesticide application, advance planting methods, machineries, and others.
Improvement of the quality of human life is one of the benefits of pesticides and the environment can be protected at the same time. However, it cannot be denied that these chemicals also have harmful effects on humans and their environment.
One major negative impact is chemical pollution. An insecticide or herbicide may be designed to have a short-lived effect. However, studies have shown that residues are found in the atmosphere, waterways, and the ground. Over time, as people keep on using synthetic chemical substances, the environment accumulates the residues that later on become pollutants.
When pesticide residue piles up in the atmosphere, the quality of the air that people breath is heavily affected. Worse, it can cause humans lung related illnesses.
The same is true with the bodies of water polluted with pesticides and the environment provided by fresh water that is thought to be safe is not safe anymore. It can also affect the life of other organisms living in the fresh waters.
Soil health is also adversely affected by the use of pesticides and the environment groups in the United States have conducted studies to prove this. One study revealed that in 1940 to 1991, fruits and vegetables showed a decline in trace mineral content by as much as 76%. This is because the soil that is polluted with harmful chemical substances affected the nutritional value off the crops.
While pesticide application may improve production but it may greatly affect the quality of the crops as well. With these benefits and harmful impacts, the private sector and the government must think seriously about whether or not to continue using chemical substances. Today, scientists continue to develop safer alternatives to pesticides. There are also traditional methods that are now being maximized to control pests.