Some things are just annoying, like flies! Plants get “bugged” by other species too. Pests are animals or plants that harm humans, our food or our living conditions . They destroy about 35% of crops globally before they can be harvested ! Pesticides are chemicals that kill pests , including weeds, diseases or certain insects .
There are two big benefits of pesticides. First, they increase crop growth . Investing US$1 in pesticides can lead to US$3-6 in earnings . Considering that about US$40 billion is spent on chemical pesticides each year , they have a huge impact. This could help feed our growing population without using more land !
Second, they can control diseases . For example, spraying houses with pesticides kills mosquitoes , hence reducing spread of diseases like malaria .
But pesticides have downsides too. In some cases they actually reduce the amount of food produced . In one study, farmers using more pesticides produced less fish and rice , possibly because pesticides disturb wildlife and the services that ecosystems usually provide [10,11].
Pesticides can spread far in air or water [11,12] and often kill many species that are not pests , including insects that pollinate flowers [13,14]. Many plants (including nearly 70% of major food crops) rely on pollinators in order to reproduce [13,15,16,17].
Early pesticides harmed human health , but there are now more regulations to try to prevent this . In low- and middle-income countries, however, toxic pesticides are still a big health problem .
Using pesticides is a complicated issue. They can be harmful but they are here to stay . A solution for now is to regulate them well, rather than ban them . Before a new chemical is used, we need to more carefully test how safe it is, both for us and for the planet .
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