167 million pounds of pesticide a year are used to grow animal feed. That takes significant amounts of energy, and using pesticides contaminates air, water, soil and wildlife resources.
Producing pesticides is an energy-intensive process that uses significant amounts of electricity, natural gas and steam. It also releases carbon dioxide. Pesticide production accounts for 6 percent of the emissions from growing animal feed and 1 percent of the emissions associated with beef consumption.
Many pesticides are made from petroleum-based chemicals (mainly ethylene, propylene) as well as methane and their use contaminates air, water, soil and wildlife. Toxic chemical byproducts of pesticide production include dioxin and volatile organic compounds. A 2007 US Geological Survey found that pesticides contaminated 90 percent of all agricultural streams tested. Nearly 10 percent of them had concentrations considered unsafe for human health. Most were in Corn Belt area where the bulk of feed is grown. Atrazine, a common pesticide that is banned in Europe, accounted for the greatest number of unsafe concentrations.