Pesticides and Food Safety

What Are Pesticides?

Farmers care about the land as much as you do. Growing food is a demanding job with many challenges and farmers have a variety of tools to meet those challenges. One tool that gets a lot of attention is crop protection, also known as pesticides. Pesticides, which include any substance intended to mitigate pests such as weeds, insects, fungi, larvae, slugs or bacteria, are used by farmers on conventional and organic farms. Pesticides are part of an integrated pest management system and are always applied following the rules and regulations developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO). 

Farmers are able to produce safe, quality foods at affordable prices, all year round. Crop quality and quantity rely on protection and without fungicides, fruit and vegetable yields would fall by 50-90%.  Pesticides decrease our exposure to food contaminated with harmful microorganisms and naturally occurring toxins, which helps prevent food borne illnesses.

Exposure

Today’s pesticides are the result of years of scientific research and testing. The industry and government agencies regulate, review, and monitor them for any potential health effects. 

Pesticides are tested extensively to ensure they present no adverse effects to people, wildlife, or the environment. Both sensitive levels of exposure and vulnerable populations are considered by government agencies to ensure high margins of safety.

Evidence shows that normal exposure to pesticides does not cause disease, birth defects, developmental delays, diabetes, or obesity.

Are Pesticides Safe?

Scientific evidence shows organic food is no safer or healthier than food grown through conventional means. By eating organic food you could reduce exposure to pesticides, but it is unclear if such a reduction is clinically significant. The benefits of adequate vegetable and fruit intake dramatically outweigh any risk of eating conventional produce. Residue on food is very low if present at all, but rinsing produce in a salt water solution or under clear running water is effective in reducing pesticide residue. A typical amount of residue found on produce can be compared to a couple drops of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Only 2% of samples tested exceed the legal limits of pesticide residue found on produce, which still does not pose a safety issue. Due to the huge safety margins developed by the FAO, food in your local super markets are well within safety limits and does not pose health risks.

What is Food Safety?

Food security relates to providing safe, abundant food supplies. Food safety means it does no harm to your health under normal recommended consumption. No matter which production method is used: organic, agroecological, or conventional, it must comply with rules and regulations, with all farmers being trained on the proper use and application levels of pesticides.

What Does This All Mean?

One third of global crop production is lost to pests, disease, and weeds and that could double without the use of pesticides. CropLife International, a leading advocate for the plant science industry, supports the International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management developed by the FAO/WHO. Only through collaboration can we develop innovative solutions for pest, weed, and disease management that protects crop yield, provides food security, and protects our health and the environment. This in turn will lead to more sustainable global food systems. 

You can find out more at PesticideFacts.org.

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