Over and over we hear it from the chemical industry: The only way to feed the world’s burgeoning population is to use herbicides and pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
But as we heard last year from Hilal Elver, the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food:
“It is a myth. Using more pesticides is nothing to do with getting rid of hunger. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), we are able to feed 9 billion people today. Production is definitely increasing, but the problem is poverty, inequality and distribution.”
Now a new study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Plants, concludes that almost all farms could significantly cut their pesticide use without seeing a drop in food production.
Gee, you mean chemical companies have been lying to farmers? And us?
According to the Guardian, which reported on the latest study, many farmers would love to ditch the poisons, largely for health reasons. So why don’t they?
Farmers lack good information about safer, environmentally friendly alternatives. That’s because they get most of their advice from chemical company reps who sell both the seeds (many needlessly pre-coated with pesticides and/or genetically engineered to withstand massive amounts of chemicals like Monsanto’s glyphosate) and of course the pesticides that go with those seeds.
Nicolas Munier-Jolain, at France’s National Institute for Agricultural Research, and one of the study’s authors, called the results “striking.” Munier-Jolain told the Guardian:
“If you want real reduction in pesticide use, give the farmers the information about how to replace them. This is absolutely not the case at the moment. A large proportion of advice is provided by organizations that are both selling the pesticides and collecting the crops. I am not sure the main concern of these organizations is to reduce the amount of pesticide used.”
So around and treacherously the pesticide treadmill turns.