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Patrick Rose

NRE 1235
April 6, 2011
The Fate of Pesticides in Tolland County

Ever since the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson in 1962, pesticides have

been the subject of endless debate. The dispute between the risks of pesticides and the benefits

they provide society creates a large gray area that makes it difficult to agree upon policy

decisions about their use. As a result, the issue at hand of whether to ban pesticide use in

Tolland County needs to be examined from all angles to procure the best result. Almost every

individual in the county would be affected, from farmers to homeowners to the environmentally

dedicated, and each sees the issue from their own unique lens. Golf courses use pesticides to

maintain their grounds, and many residents of the town take advantage of the opportunity to golf

in town. Farmers and horticulturists use pesticides to protect their crops and flowers, which are at

risk of attack and ruin by pests. Homeowners use pesticides to protect their houses from termites

and their pets from ticks. However, pesticides have also been shown to do harm to the

environment, harming local bird populations. Pests can also adapt, creating cycles of the success

and subsequent failure of pesticides. Overuse and misuse of pesticides negatively affect both the

natural world and the health of the county’s citizens. Although all of these arguments are

legitimate, it is not a good idea to ban pesticides in Tolland County. A ban would have an

overall negative effect on the population of the county.

In reality, there is no official definition or classification as to what a pest is. We define

pests as “any plants or animals that endanger our food supply, health or comfort,” and we design

our pesticides around this model (Delaplane, 2000). Moreover, we heavily rely on these

pesticides to take care of these pests. “In the United States, pesticides are used on 900,000 farms

and in 70 million households” to prevent damage to crops and property (Delaplane, 2000). With
such widespread use of pesticides, our society would not be able to function properly without

their presence. Immediately phasing out the pesticides being used would leave people helpless,

create an immediate need for alternatives, and cost both businesses and individuals more money.

Take, for example, the farming industry. Farmers use pesticides to protect their crops

from damage from insects and animals, and pest outbreaks could financially devastate local

farmers (California Department of Pesticide Regulation). A recent study showed that with a ban

of pesticides, “U.S. exports of corn, wheat and soybeans would drop 27 percent, with a loss of

132,000 jobs” and a ban on fungicides “would reduce production of fruit 32 percent…

increase[ing] consumer food prices by 13 percent [and] reduc[ing] the gross national product by

about $28 billion” (Delaplane, 2000). The agriculture industry, and especially the small to

midsized farms that exist in the county, cannot handle this economic loss.

As well, the individuals in the county using pesticides to protect their homes and their

pets from harm would not be able to go without these products. “Cockroach sprays… kitchen

and bath disinfectants… and swimming pool chemicals” all fall under the umbrella of pesticides

and would be banned under the new provisions (California Department of Pesticide Regulation).

Homes would be susceptible to termite damage, and tick-borne diseases like encephalitis and dog

heartworms would reemerge as issues at home (Delaplane, 2000). These problems would cause

not only economic strain on consumers, but add to the hassle and daily worries of life.

The decision at hand though is whether the potential for harm to the environment is more

important than the stress of the ban of pesticides and the economic loss that would accompany it.

“Pesticides are poisons and can be hazardous,” especially because the use of these poisons is not

always strictly regulated (Delaplane, 2000). Accidents involving these chemicals occur, and

even with correct use, pesticides can harm more than just the targeted pest. Many are applied
liberally, and “under constant chemical pressure, some pests became genetically resistant to

pesticides” (Delaplane, 2000). The threat to humans is legitimate as well, as inadvertent contact

with pesticides, such as with residues on our food, can occur. “Experts… have warned that the

long-term effects of exposure to pesticides can be devastating, especially to pregnant women and

children,” raising concern over the safety of pesticides not only to the environment but to us as

well (Babbage, 2009). Health impacts such as “cancer… and learning disabilities” are

unacceptable (Rell, 2007).

However, the worry of health impacts is unfounded with advances in today’s technology.

“Many of today’s pesticides are designed after ‘natural’ pesticides,” using naturally occurring

ingredients that already exist in nature to deter pests (Delaplane, 2000). As well, the process of

“integrated pest management” in farming combines the use of production methods, beneficial

predators, and pesticide timing to keep insects at a minimum (Delaplane, 2000). On top of that,

the EPA stringently tests and regulates every pesticide before it is cleared for use. They are

tested for both environmental and human safety; in one case “a popular insecticide used on corn

was canceled because the EPA decided it posed an unacceptable risk to birds” even though it was

acceptable for humans (Delaplane, 2000). All pesticides need to be registered with the EPA, and

conservative maximum levels of pesticides are set to protect consumers. These levels are

extremely rarely exceeded; for example, in a 10 month study, “of 5,888 food items [from grocery

stores tested], 91 percent had no detectable levels of… fungicides” (Delaplane, 2000).

Realistically, the frequency of pesticides at any detectable level would be even lower after

washing and peeling the products before consumption. Pesticides pose virtually no risk to the

health of humans and, at acceptable levels, a very miniscule threat to the environment.
The absence of a threat, though, is not necessarily a reason to exclude the possibility of

banning pesticide use. Ethically, people have the right to be protected from harm, and the threat

of harm can be included in that right. If for any reason the tests on a pesticide are incorrect or a

grave misuse of the poison occurs, even if by accident, this right can be violated. In the case of

people’s health, safe is definitely better than sorry, and banning pesticides would provide this

safety. But, even here, a gray area exists, as people have the right to protect their homes and pets

as well. They have the right to choose whether to use pesticides, and to what extent, at least

around their homes. The government’s right to limit one freedom to protect another raises even

more issues aside from the pesticide argument at hand, one that has many more sides and

opinions to it. Government action surpasses the basic issue of the safety of pesticides, raising

many more questions.

In conclusion, an overall ban of pesticides would not be a positive addition to Tolland

County. Pesticides are widely used, and phasing them out would be difficult. Farmers,

homeowners, and other industries use pesticides; a ban of the chemicals would cause economic

loss and overall hassle. A potential for harm to both the environment and humans does exist, but

with modern day techniques such as natural pesticides and integrated pest management, these

poisons are safer than ever. Furthermore, extremely conservative EPA restrictions exist to

provide an added layer of protection to humans and the natural world. Government action, in

this instance, creates ethical gray areas that go beyond the safety of pesticides, creating even

more issues with banning pesticides. Tolland County should not prohibit pesticides so that the

safe use of pesticides can continue. With the benefits of these chemicals, life is better.