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Agricultural Pesticides: Understand How Improper Use Impacts Biodiversity and Human Health



In modern agriculture, the use of pesticides (including insecticides, herbicides and the like) is practically a constant when it comes to large-scale production. To give you an idea, it is estimated that in Brazil the application of these agricultural pesticides exceeds 300 thousand tons per year – all to improve soil conditions, protect crops and generate healthy, quality food in an endless cycle.

However, although these products aim for the good of the end consumer, improper use is capable of generating serious consequences not only for the environment, but also for human beings. It was with this in mind that we created this article, which brings together some of the main impacts of the misuse of agricultural pesticides and good practice alternatives.


Main types of agricultural pesticides

Before you learn more about the impacts of agricultural pesticides, it is interesting to familiarize yourself with the main types found on the market. And they are not difficult to understand from the name itself! Check it out: herbicides are products that combat invasive plants; insecticides fight insects; bactericides, bacteria; fungicides, fungi; acaricides, mites; rodenticides combat rodents; Finally, growth regulators are also considered agricultural pesticides.

Each product has specific applications, in addition to its own toxicological and environmental classifications (after all, all pesticides contain strong chemical substances in their composition). Therefore, you need to pay close attention when choosing – read the label, consult experts, respect the instructions on quantity and frequency of application, and so on.


Impacts of misuse

One of the main impacts of the misuse of pesticides is the contamination of water, soil and air.

See possible forms of exposure:

The soil can be exposed when the producer applies pesticides directly to the plants. In the long term, the main consequence of this is the loss of fertility, since contaminants end up accumulating and weakening the structure of the substrate. Not to mention the possibility of increased acidity and other problems!

Water can be exposed in bodies such as rivers and lakes, often through the intentional release of pesticides in the wrong area or through surface runoff from places where they are used. This contamination risks affecting the entire surrounding ecosystem, as it triggers the death of plants and animals and can even reach humans – when they ingest already contaminated fish.

The air, in turn, can be exposed when traces of pesticides applied by air remain in the atmosphere. The consequence is the poisoning of any animal or living organism that breathes oxygen in the contaminated area, causing serious health problems.

The misuse of pesticides also impacts the biodiversity (fauna and flora) of the application area. Agricultural pesticides can affect insects and other organisms that participate in essential processes, such as flower pollination, as well as birds, fish and the like. Furthermore, the impact extends to underwater vegetation.

Here, one of the biggest problems is the strong presence of pesticides in food chains, as there is a risk of poisoning for several species – once again, even reaching humans.

One of the most “classic” consequences of the improper use of pesticides is the eventual resistance of pests and weeds to the applied products. Just think about what happens when a person takes too much antibiotics: the bacteria they are supposed to fight become resistant to their action, which nullifies the protection guaranteed by the medicines. This same principle applies to pesticides, which lose effectiveness while contributing to the proliferation of more resilient pests.

To conclude this list, we can mention (or better, reinforce) the fact that pesticide residues always end up in the food that consumers eat. On the one hand, this is normal and there are control mechanisms in place – such as the Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) stipulated by the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) for foods produced with the help of pesticides. On the other hand, the problem actually arises when this MRL is not respected. This is a direct consequence of the excessive use of agricultural pesticides.

It's not about cutting pesticides, it's about knowing how to use them

Agricultural pesticides play a fundamental role in ensuring the safety and quality of food production in the world and, therefore, eliminating their use would be unfeasible from an industrial point of view. The secret is knowing how to use them in the right amount, following expert guidance and not exceeding the amounts or application frequencies recommended by the brands.

Still, there are some alternatives that do not involve the application of these products. See examples:

Adhere to organic agriculture, a model characterized by the non-use of chemical agents in the production process. It allows for better preservation of natural resources, maintenance of biodiversity and the use of natural fertilizers (such as composting), although its disadvantages are limited production volume and high food prices.

Carry out biological control, that is, use natural predators to eliminate pests and insects that transmit diseases. These predators can be other insects and microorganisms (fungi, bacteria and even viruses).


To conclude this list, we can mention (or better, reinforce) the fact that pesticide residues always end up in the food that consumers eat. On the one hand, this is normal and there are control mechanisms in place – such as the Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) stipulated by the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) for foods produced with the help of pesticides. On the other hand, the problem actually arises when this MRL is not respected. This is a direct consequence of the excessive use of agricultural pesticides.

It's not about cutting pesticides, it's about knowing how to use them

Agricultural pesticides play a fundamental role in ensuring the safety and quality of food production in the world and, therefore, eliminating their use would be unfeasible from an industrial point of view. The secret is knowing how to use them in the right amount, following expert guidance and not exceeding the amounts or application frequencies recommended by the brands.


Still, there are some alternatives that do not involve the application of these products. See examples:

Adhere to organic agriculture, a model characterized by the non-use of chemical agents in the production process. It allows for better preservation of natural resources, maintenance of biodiversity and the use of natural fertilizers (such as composting), although its disadvantages are limited production volume and high food prices.

Carry out biological control, that is, use natural predators to eliminate pests and insects that transmit diseases. These predators can be other insects and microorganisms (fungi, bacteria and even viruses).:blogsensix

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