Measurable Effects of Pesticides on the Environment - Organic Trade Association
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Measurable Effects of Pesticides on the Environment

  • Research performed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Environmental Sciences Division revealed that hypoxia, a fatal condition that affects thousands of fish, shrimp, and shellfish in the Gulf of Mexico each year, is partly the result of fertilizer run-off from agricultural activities in the Mississippi basin.  The run-off, along with the temperature differentials created when the warm water from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers come into contact with the cold Gulf waters, forms a deadly combination whereby algae grows, dies, decomposes and uses up the oxygen the aforementioned organisms need for survival. To combat this problem, and reduce phosphorus production, which is also seen as a contributing factor in the rise of hypoxia, researchers have proposed increasing the use of environmentally sustainable biofuel, improving nutrient management, and restoring wetlands in the affected areas.
    Source:, 2008.

  • Toxic chemicals are contaminating groundwater on every inhabited continent, endangering the world’s most valuable supplies of freshwater, according to a WorldWatch paper. As a result, author Payal Sampat called for a systematic overhaul of manufacturing and industrial agriculture. He noted that since 1998, farmers in China’s Yunnan Province have eliminated their use of fungicides while doubling rice yields by planting more diverse varieties of the grain. Meanwhile, several water utilities in Germany now pay farmers to switch to organic operations because moving farmers to organic practices costs less than removing farm chemicals from water supplies.
    Source: "Deep Trouble: The Hidden Threat of Groundwater Pollution," by Payal Sampat, Worldwatch Paper 154, December 2000.

  • A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry showed DDT, chlordane and some other organochlorine pesticides keep showing up in the food supply years after they were banned. Planting a garden in ground heavily treated with chlordane 38 years earlier, scientists found chlordane residues in all 12 vegetables planted, including lettuce, zucchini, potatoes and carrots. Although the residues were all within safe tolerance limits established by the government, the American Chemical Society has warned that chlordane can accumulate in the human body and lead to digestive and nervous system disorders.
    Source: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, May 15, 2000, cited in a May 6, 2000, Associated Press article written by Philip Brasher.

  • Pesticide sprays "encourage life-threatening bacteria to grow on crops," according to Canadian researcher Greg Blank in an article in the New Scientist. Researchers at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg found that bacteria thrived in some formulations of pesticides diluted with water, growing best in chlorothalonil, linuron, permethrin, and chlorpyrifos. Blank warned that the bacteria could pose a threat to people eating raw fruit and vegetables such as strawberries, raspberries and lettuce.
    Source: New Scientist, Oct. 7, 2000.

  • Analyzing U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program data comparing the relative amounts and toxicity of pesticide residues in different foods, a Consumer Union report found that fresh peaches, frozen and fresh winter squash, apples, grapes, spinach, pears, and green beans had some of the highest Toxicity Index ratings. As a result, the Consumers Union recommended purchasing organically grown apples, peaches, pears, grapes, winter squash, spinach and green beans.
    Source: "Do you know what you’re eating? An analysis of U.S. Government Data on Pesticide Residues in Foods," February 1999, Consumers Union of United States Inc., Edward Groth III, project director.
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Research and Promotion 2012