Food demand spiking crop chemical use?
As the world demands more food and the agriculture industry strives to meet it, environmentalists, scientists and farm advocates are growing more concerned about how the agriculture industry will meet these demands.
They are concerned because the ag industry’s response has been to increase the use of agrochemicals and fertilizer, which increase health and environmental dangers in their opinion. Recent news report have highlighted how fertilizer is getting into the groundwater in parts of California, contaminating the rural drinking water supply.
As agriculture relies on its technologies, pressure on the ecosystems is increasing. These groups point to the use of more herbicides, fertilizer and biotechnology. Concern has also been growing over the ability of these technologies to hold up under increasing pressure. Herbicide-resistant weed populations appear to be increasing. Insects are developing resistance to insecticides. And last year, there was documented evidence of one strain of Bt corn losing its effectiveness.
Pat Sinicropi, legislative director at the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, an organization of municipal water interests, told Reuters, "The pressure on agriculture is mounting to squeeze as much yield out of their land as possible, which is driving more and more chemical use."
Even a DuPont executive addressed the risk. Jim Borel, Borel, executive vice president of DuPont, which has projected strong growth in sales of insecticide, herbicide and pesticide products, told Reuters, "With any technology there is risk. People tend to focus on either the problems, or worse yet, the fears that people create about potential problems.
"But," Borel said in an interview, "if we are going to feed 10 billion people in the next 40 years we have to essentially double agricultural production. We all have to work together. We have to be eyes wide open around the challenges and the risks."
As demand for crops increase, so will demand for herbicides and biotechnology. One study in the journal BioScience, released in January, showed herbicide use could see a “profound increase” if the new biotech crops being developed see the same rate of adoption that Roundup Ready crops experienced.
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