The EU, Brazil and China all ban harmful pesticides the United States allows

A new study published this month reveals that the United States is the place to go for companies that want to produce poisonous pesticides that cause harm to our health and the environment.

While the United States is often thought of as a responsible regulator of the pesticide industry, that is unfortunately not the case according to Center for Biological Diversity senior scientist Nathan Donley.

“The USA is generally regarded as being highly regulated and having protective pesticide safeguards in place,” he said in a statement. “This study contradicts that narrative and finds that in fact, in the last couple of decades, nearly all pesticide cancellations in the USA have been done voluntarily by the pesticide industry. Without a change in the US Environmental Protection Agency’s current reliance on voluntary mechanisms for cancellations, the USA will likely continue to lag behind its peers in banning harmful pesticides.”

In short, it appears our government lets the industry regulate itself, which is never a good thing because private companies make decisions based on their bottom line. People get sick and die from these chemicals and the environment takes a serious hit, but as long as the company that produces the chemical makes money, they’ll refuse to discontinue it until it’s too costly, most likely because of lawsuits.

The Environmental Protection Agency is supposed to regulate these pesticides and keep them off the market. Congress could also step in and pass legislation to do the same thing. But big money in the form of political donations results in the EPA and our elected officials looking the other way while the people and the environment suffer.

Meanwhile, the European Union, Brazil and China all do a better job of regulating pesticides.

According to the study published by BioMedCentral:

There are 72, 17, and 11 pesticides approved for outdoor agricultural applications in the USA that are banned or in the process of complete phase out in the EU, Brazil, and China, respectively. Of the 1.2 billion pounds of pesticides used in US agriculture in 2016, approximately 322 million pounds were pesticides banned in the EU, 40 million pounds were pesticides banned in China and nearly 26 million pounds were pesticides banned in Brazil.

These findings suggest that the USA utilizes voluntary, industry-initiated cancellation as the primary method of prohibiting pesticides, which is different from the non-voluntary, regulator-initiated cancellations / bans that are predominant in the EU, Brazil and China.

The study not only goes on to point out that 2,000 incidents of poisoning by organophosphate pesticides occurred in the United States between 2012 and 2016, antibiotic pesticides are helping harmful bacteria become resistant to medications used by humans such as streptomycin and oxytetracycline that fight several kinds of infections.

For example, the Trump administration recently approved antibiotic residue on citrus fruits, which means humans are going to end up ingesting antibiotics they don’t need, which will help bacteria build resistance and become stronger and harder to fight when an infection does strike and patients need the medicine.

Non-human use of antibiotics in agriculture is known to be one way that antibiotic resistant bacteria can develop and spread to humans and, while most antibiotics in agriculture are used on animals that are kept in confined spaces, the use of antibiotics directly on crops can result in a considerable area of land being exposed on a semi-regular basis.

It should also be pointed out that the EU bans 140 chemicals in skincare products and the US bans just around a dozen.

That exposes millions of Americans to chemicals that are harmful to them and those around them and the environment in which they live.

The only truly effective way to prevent exposure, the study concludes, is for the government to act.

Total pesticide bans remain the most effective way to prevent intentional or accidental exposure to highly hazardous pesticides and can catalyze the transition to safer alternatives [76, 77]. Surprisingly, the USA is lagging when it comes to banning or phasing out pesticides that the top agricultural powers have identified as too harmful for use.

And it looks like we’ll have to wait until after a new administration takes office to make these changes.

Featured Image: Wikimedia

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Stephen D. Foster Jr.

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