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We Don’t Need Pesticides to Feed the World, According to UN

Sixty-five percent of global pesticide sales are controlled by just three powerful corporations.

Nick Rose

Nick Rose

If a mounting pile of scientific evidence are to be believed, pesticides are wreaking havoc on our planet and bodies.

From fucking up human sperm to contributing to the impending "Beepocalypse" to making farmers suicidally depressed, the growing consensus is that pesticides are causing at least as many problems as they're solving, if not significantly more.

But what about world hunger? Some argue that using pesticides is a necessary evil, or that it isn't even an evil at all, because the amount of crops required to feed our species requires the use of chemicals to ward off and kill other creatures that we've deemed threats to our food supply.

Conveniently, this train of thought allows for huge agricultural companies to continue using pesticides with relative impunity, despite empirical evidence pointing toward the damage that these substances cause. But the United Nations is now calling bullshit on this supposed need for pesticides to end world hunger, in a new report by the Human Rights Council.

"While scientific research confirms the adverse effects of pesticides, proving a definitive link between exposure and human diseases or conditions, or harm to the ecosystem presents a considerable challenge," the report said. "This challenge has been exacerbated by a systematic denial, fueled by the pesticide and agroindustry, of the magnitude of the damage inflicted by these chemicals, and aggressive, unethical marketing tactics remain unchallenged."

In the report, the UN debunked the widely disseminated "myth" that pesticides are required for high agricultural yields, suggesting instead that organic farming could suffice.

"Without or with minimal use of toxic chemicals, it is possible to produce healthier, nutrient-rich food, with higher yields in the longer term, without polluting and exhausting environmental resources," authors wrote, adding that, "a rise in organic agricultural practices in many places illustrates that farming with less or without any pesticides is feasible. Studies have indicated that agroecology is capable of delivering sufficient yields to feed the entire world population and ensure that they are adequately nourished." Boom!  

The real problem, though, may be beyond the pesticides themselves, as the UN points to a perverse relationship between governments and corporations. In fact, 65 percent of global pesticide sales are controlled by just three powerful corporations: Monsanto and Bayer, Dow and Dupont, and Syngenta and ChemChina, a consolidation which allows them to wield a huge amount of lobbying power on lawmakers.  

"The pesticide industry's efforts to influence policymakers and regulators have obstructed reforms and paralysed global pesticide restrictions globally. When challenged, justifications for lobbying efforts include claims that companies comply with their own codes of conduct, or that they follow local laws."

The report concludes with a set of 18 recommendations for countries, ranging from encouraging organic farming to "imposing penalties on companies that fabricate evidence and disseminate misinformation on the health and environmental risks of their products."