Sign up to receive email updates, action alerts, health tips, promotions to support our work and more from EWG. You can opt-out at any time. [Privacy]

 

Pesticide Industry Propaganda: The Real Story

The Real Story Behind the Myths

Myth 8: Pesticides cost money, so farmers currently use as few pesticides as possible

May 1, 1995

Pesticide Industry Propaganda: The Real Story: Myth 8: Pesticides cost money, so farmers currently use as few pesticides as possible

Myth #8: Pesticides cost money, so farmers currently use as few pesticides as possible.

Two consecutive National Academy of Sciences studies--Alternative Agriculture, and Soil and Water Quality: An Agenda for Agriculture--have concluded the opposite, that farmers currently have no compelling economic incentive to reduce pesticide use. At the same time, these two studies showed that major reductions in current pesticide use levels are possible with available off-the-shelf pest control methods (NRC 1989a, NRC 1993b).

Farmers maintain unnecessarily high levels of pesticide use because pesticides are weakly regulated, because farmers pay none of the costs to remedy the pollution caused by pesticides, and because pesticides account for a relatively small percentage of overall production costs and per-acre crop value.

The average value of an acre of Florida tomatoes is about $14,000, while the average cost per acre for pesticides is about $750, or about 5 percent of the crop's value. Reducing pesticide costs by 20 percent, or $150, for example, provides virtually no potential economic reward compared with the perceived risk of change and the cash value of the crop.

In corn and soybean crops, pesticide use is less intensive and an even smaller percentage of production costs or crop value. The value of an average acre of corn is $322 (assuming $2.80 per bushel for corn, including subsidies and 115 bushel yield). The cost of using cancer-causing herbicides that pollute the drinking water of at least 11 million people in the Corn Belt is about $5.00 per acre, or only about 1.7 percent of the value of the crop.

There is little economic incentive to reduce use when the profits on the line are so relatively great, and when farmers pay none of the costs associated with the pollution caused by pesticide use.