Calculating the true cost of pesticide use

Photo credit: 401(k) 2012

Critics of organic often cite the benefits of pesticide use, such as controlling pests and boosting yields, but economic models rarely incorporate hidden and external costs of pesticide use on human health and the environment. A study in Sustainable Agriculture Reviews estimates the costs of these negative impacts. The researchers analyzed 61 papers published between 1980 and 2014 and 30 independent datasets examining costs associated with the purchase and application of pesticides and the impact of treatments on humans and the environment. The study showed that past calculations have grossly underestimated the costs associated with pesticide use by omitting such information as fatalities due to chronic pesticide exposure. After further review of the data, researchers increased the cost calculation estimate tenfold, from $1.5 billion to $15 billion in the United States alone, and urged a re-evaluation of pesticide use because the costs associated with pesticide use may outweigh the benefits.