Environmental and public health advocates have argued for years that our food system's heavy reliance on pesticides is a serious detriment to human health and ecosystems. The agrochemical industry has countered that these concerns are 'anti-science' and claims that humanity must rely on pesticides to feed our growing population. A blistering new report from the United Nations vindicates the concerns of advocates and dismisses the industry's claims as merely "aggressive, unethical marketing tactics." The report also condemns pesticide manufacturers' efforts to "influence policymakers" and "contest scientific evidence" in order to obfuscate damning research and protect their profits.
The report, compiled by Baskut Tuncak, UN Special Rapporteur on toxics, and Hilal Elver, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, details the devastating human cost of our reliance on pesticides. In addition to causing chronic health problems, the report notes that acute pesticide poisoning leads to approximately 200,000 deaths each year, predominantly in developing countries. While the report does note that pesticide use has helped increase some crop yields, it specifically refutes the industry's boast that it is needed to feed the world: "Reliance on hazardous pesticides" the authors write, "is a short-term solution that undermines the rights to adequate food and health for present and future generations."
The report goes on to detail the many other negative impacts of industrial agriculture's reliance on pesticide use and explores paths we can pursue to reduce global pesticide use. We encourage those who are passionate about sustainable agriculture to review a summary of the UN's report on Civil Eats or read the report itself.