By law,* a pesticide is “any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest”…
Simply killing pests, instead of solving pest problems, leads to routine and repeated use of pesticides as pests need to be killed over and over again…
- though often misunderstood to refer only to insecticides, the term pesticide also applies to herbicides, fungicides, and various other substances used to control pests. Under United States law, a pesticide is also any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant;
- a comprehensive definition of the term pesticide also needs to include what pesticides don’t do. Pesticides kill or damage pests, sometimes very effectively, but they don’t solve pest problems. Solving a pest problem requires identifying the factors that allow the pest to thrive, and then changing those conditions so that the pest is no longer successful. At best, pesticides provide short-term respites from pests, and require repeated treatments to keep pest populations low;
- designed to kill or damage living things, pesticides are, as the US National Research Council has written, “perhaps the only toxic substances that are purposefully applied to the environment.” (1)
- the enormous amounts of pesticides that are currently used, after decades of widespread use, are a simple demonstration of this fact. For example, there are over 800 different pesticides and over 20,000 products currently registered for use in the United States alone;
- synthetic pesticides were initially developed for commercial agricultural use in the late 1940s and 1950s and were widely adopted in the US by the mid-1970s. Pesticide use on major field crops, fruits, and vegetables more than doubled from 215 million pounds (about 97,522 tons) in 1964 to 511 million pounds (about 231,785 tons) in 2001. If pesticides really solved pest problems, these enormous numbers would shrink.
(*)Downloaded from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website, this definition is applied in almost all industrialised countries.
(1) National Research Council, Board on Agriculture, Committee on Long-Range Soil and Water Conservation, 1993: “Soil and water quality”, Washington D.C., National Academy Press, p. 334.