The Problem of Pesticides – On Food

The word “pesticide” probably doesn’t conjure up warm and fuzzy images, but these products play a key role in modern agriculture. Farmers use pesticide products to ward off various threats to their crops, including rodents, weeds and insects. A recent study, however, has called into question the use of such chemicals.

Under the Microscope

Issued by researchers from the University of Maryland, this report examined pesticide data from U.S. Department of Agriculture from a period spanning 1999 to 2015. Specifically, the team sought to measure the presence of neonicotinoids on common foods. On a worldwide basis, neonicotinoids are the most commonly used type of pesticide.

Some of the major findings from the report, published in 2018 in the journal Environmental Health, are as follows:

One type neonicotinoids, acetamiprid, was determined to be on 21 percent of strawberries, 30 percent of apples and 46 percent of cherries.

  • Imidacloprid, the most prevalent agricultural insecticide in the world, was identified on 58 percent of all cauliflower tested.
  • Imidacloprid was also found on a significant amount of cilantro (31 percent) and lettuce (46 percent).

On the positive side, less than five percent of all food commodities were found to be harboring identifiable levels of insecticides. Furthermore, most of the residual pesticides were present in amounts well below the limits established by the Environmental Protection Agency.

However, the authors did express concerns about the cumulative effect of consuming pesticide-laced items. They also noted that the nature of neonicotinoids makes them difficult to fully eradicate. The report’s senior author, Devon Payne-Sturges, pointed out that such substances get “in the plant stem, inside the leaf, the fruit, and the pollen. So you can’t simply wash off the residue, because it’s inside the flesh of the plant.”

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