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Pesticide Industry Propaganda: The Real Story

The Real Story Behind the Myths

Myth 7: Restricting the use of pesticides will cause food shortages

May 1, 1995

Pesticide Industry Propaganda: The Real Story: Myth 7: Restricting the use of pesticides will cause food shortages

Myth #7: Restricting the use of pesticides will cause food shortages and raise the price of food.

Experience shows that this claim is totally false. Since 1985, the EPA has banned various uses of 12 pesticides on more than 200 crops. The cancellation of these pesticide uses had absolutely no effect on the price or availability of any food anywhere in the United States (Elderkin 1995).

The reason is that there are plenty of available alternative pesticides and pest control techniques for farmers of every crop in the United States (NRC 1989, NRC 1993b). Perhaps the best example is that of Alar (see Myth #6), which caused a tremendous uproar from apple growers when it was removed from the market. Yet after Alar sales were halted by the manufacturer, apple yields, sales and profits went up, while consumer prices remained steady (USDA 1993a, USDA 1993b, Elderkin 1995).

Many pesticides that are widely used here are banned for health and environmental reasons in other countries. One example is atrazine--the most heavily used pesticide in the U.S.--which is banned in many European nations. Another is alachlor, a heavily used corn and soybean herbicide that is banned in Canada.

Indonesia, a tropical country with extreme pest pressure, has gone so far as to ban whole categories of pesticides used in the United States, in a successful effort to contain surging pest resistance to pesticides and to promote integrated pest control measures.

In fact, pesticides are increasingly ineffective. American farmers used 33 times more pesticides in 1990 than they did in 1945, yet crops losses from pests during that time increased from 31 to 37 percent (Pimentel et al. 1992). The reason for this is genetic pest resistance to the growing chemical assault.