What are pesticides? Pesticides are anything applied to change the behavior of a pest, which is defined by the person who identifies it as such. Since the origin of farming, humans have been utilizing natural compounds to protect crops from pests. As agriculture grew to larger scales it moved towards monoculture, creating greater habitat availability for pests that were previously kept in control through species diversity and natural remedies. After World War II, factories no longer needed to create chemical weapons were taken over by large corporations such as Shell Oil and re-purposed to manufacture synthetic pesticides. By the mid 1900’s, farmers were using these synthetic pesticides as their first line of defense against the pests threatening their increasing yields. The continued widespread use of synthetic pesticides is contributing to a global environmental and public health crisis.
Certified Organic pesticides break down in the environment and do not pose as great a risk to wildlife. These may contain ingredients such as essential oils, diatomaceous earth, mined minerals, or natural bacterial colonies. Some certified organic pesticides, such as vinegar, are classified in a greater risk category than toxic synthetics. This is due to the caustic, abrasive nature of the material and its risk to humans. While vinegar could kill a pest, its residual and disruptive nature is nowhere near that of a synthetic pesticide.
Synthetic Pesticides pollute the environment and harm wildlife. They pesticides have been found to reside in the soil, leach into the groundwater, run off into the streams, and move through the food chain. Many are water soluble and persist in the environment. 394 different pesticides and pesticide metabolites are detected in Northern California’s groundwater.
They kill the good guys, too. Many chemicals are nonselective and damage more than their intended target species. Both herbicides and insecticides can devastate pollinator populations. Food sources for fish and birds become diminished and poisoned. Pesticide exposure lowers the reproductive success of pheasants, waterfowl, raptors, partridges, finches, and robins, and contributes to amphibian die-offs. Toxins internalized by non-target plants can remain in the ecosystem for years, affecting anything they come into contact with. While some species have developed resistances to these pesticides, many more specialized species have not. Decreasing biodiversity and habitat loss of these specialists is the unfortunate result.
OUR Proposed Solution
What is our solution? Require a three percent annual reduction of pesticide usage not conforming with the National Organic Program (NOP). This includes agriculture, forestry, residential, and domestic usage. By 2050, a 90% conformity of mentioned inputs with the NOP will be the expected result. A tax of .01% will be levied on all fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, fumigants, and fertilizers not conforming with the (NOP). These funds will be used to support research dedicated to the reduction of these products, with progress reports published annually. Synthetic pesticides are not the only problem, but stopping their use is an important first step to cleaning toxins out of our environment and taking back control from chemical manufacturing companies who prioritize their money over our health. We know there is a more sustainable path, and in this age of science and technology, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish.
What is Glyphosate? Glyphosate is only one out of thousands of pesticides we need to ban. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, and one of the most widely used herbicides in the world. Over 167,000 pounds of glyphosate based herbicides were applied in Sonoma County in 2018 alone, not including unreported homeowner applications. Glyphosate and its degradation product, AMPA, have been shown to accumulate in the environment and have been linked to bee hive decline, monarch butterfly decline, and distortion of microbial communities. It is present at all levels of the food chain, and chemical has been linked to irreversible neurological and endocrine- disrupting effects, severe kidney damage, asthma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, birth defects, and infertility.
Certified Sustainable is not enough. While some certified sustainable farms chose to practice organic pest control methods, most do not. As an example, certified sustainable vineyards are only restricted from using 28 chemicals and still rely on a concoction of toxic herbicides, fungicide, and insecticides to keep their vineyards pest free. The yearly, monthly, and weekly cycle of spraying is not an Integrated Pest Management approach nor a sustainable long-term solution to pest control. Vineyards are now transitioning away from glyphosate to even more toxic herbicides for marketing reasons. Everyone needs to make a living, but at what cost? Unlike those who work in pollutive industries that inherently strip and contaminate the land, such as oil drilling and mining, farmers can use agriculture to regenerate the land and soil, contributing to its health and the overall health of the environment.
The EPA does not have proof that the final formulations of pesticides are safe. Laws are in place protecting pesticide companies from disclosing inert ingredients to protect their ‘trade secrets’. The non-disclosure of these inert chemicals also inhibits independent research to be conducted on their possible dangers. For example, Roundup is composed of 60% inert ingredients, which have recently found to be 100-1,100 times more toxic to human cells than glyphosate alone. Laboratory studies funded by pesticide companies, only test the toxicity of the active ingredient, not the whole formula or its inert ingredients, which often times make up a majority of the product. Enclosed, artificial studies cannot accurately or precisely represent the complex interactions in a natural ecosystem.
The combinations of multiple pesticides have not been tested (thoroughly). Farmers mix together multiple pesticides in order to combat resistance. As long as the pesticide is registered for a crop, it can be mixed with another pesticide, unless explicitly stated. The combinations of these pesticides are not required to be tested by the EPA to determine safety, and relatively little is known about how they interact in our bodies and the environment. More than 70,000 pesticide products employing over 6,000 active ingredients (AI’s) are registered for use in Sonoma County alone, but the EPA only regulates 15 registered pesticides in California public drinking water. The infinite combination of these chemicals and their break down products are not adequately studied, monitored, or tested for.
Pesticide residues end up in our food. Grains, produce, children’s cereal, and alcoholic beverages are just a few of many products that have found to be contaminated with residual pesticides. Even though the levels may be below the maximum daily tolerance level set by the EPA, these chemicals are stored in our body and accumulate over time, subjecting us to their harmful effects.
Pesticides accumulate and persist in the environment. Glyphosate has been detected in mother’s breast milk at levels up to 1,600 times higher than the chemical’s legal limit in European Drinking Water. Greater urine toxicities are found in areas with heavier glyphosate usage. Glyphosate and its metabolites are commonly found in air, rain, and snow, and reside in the soil for longer periods than suggested on the product label. They are detected at all levels of the food chain and can persist through multiple generations after initial exposure.
The laws do not protect us. The EPA’s maximum contaminant level (MCL) for glyphosate in drinking water is 7,000 times higher than the MCL in Europe. US Laws regulating glyphosate are outdated and based on the false premise that glyphosate does not bioaccumulate, which has now been proven false. The EPA’s MCL’s and acceptable residue levels legally allow us to be poisoned. While the EPA may claim low doses will not cause any adverse health effects, the track records of synthetic pesticides tell a different story.
Children are the most vulnerable. Their small size, exploratory behavior, and developing physiology makes them more susceptible to pollutant exposure, and research has shown an association between environmental contaminants and children with asthma, cancer, and a variety of neurological disorders.
Pesticides are in our drinking water. Glyphosate was found in 70% of American household’s drinking water, at levels exceeding the European MCL. Pesticides are testing positive in wells across the state and agricultural runoff contaminates precious water resources. Not only does drinking water treatment processes fail to fully remove pesticides, they can actually create more toxic compounds. During disinfection with chlorine, pesticides such as organophosphorus compounds (ex. Glyphosate) can be oxidized to form degradation products that are sometimes 20 times as toxic as the parent products.
The time to act is now. In this age of environmental distress, it is time to take back our roles as stewards of the land. The environment is the true provider of our livelihood. With this measure we can begin to take control for our and nature’s health.