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The real pest: Insects or pesticides in our food supply?

Updated: Apr 21

By eco-rep Dean Riddle

Publication Date: March 17, 2021

Grim Reaper with pesticides watches a man eat a sprayed apple

Food is the one thing we all need to continue living and growing. Whether it be a Rider student studying for a test or an athlete getting ready for their next game, everyone needs fuel. Without it, humanity would eventually become extinct.

Humans have put so much effort into increasing food availability not only across the country, but the whole world. Through impressive technological advancements, we have been able to increase food production tremendously — with one of those crucial advancements being pesticides.

Many pesticides, such as DDT and Chlordane, while helpful in increasing the supply of food across the world – due to their ability to deter insects from consuming plants – have found themselves surrounded by controversy. There have been numerous studies that link pesticides with increased rates of cancer. The people most at risk of developing cancer from the use of pesticides are those that do the actual work — the farmers.

According to a study from the U.S. National Library of Medicine, eight of 15 studies in North America found that there was a modestly increased risk among farmers compared to non-farmers, with effect estimates 1.1 to 4.3 times greater than the average cancer rate of non-farmers.

To make matters worse, manufacturers that produce these pesticides, such as Dupont and Monsanto, have essentially monopolized the market with their products, as there are not many other manufacturers that could realistically compete. Dupont and Monsanto have also been able to genetically engineer many common seeds that include pesticides within the seed, meaning reapplication of pesticides remains minimal.

In fact, because of these methods that are available today, Monsanto alone controls 80% of the U.S. corn market and a whopping 93% of the U.S. soy market.

These seeds also tend to drift into other farmers’ plots of land, causing legal implications that require them to use those seeds, or else they have to suffer a heavy fine for using and selling their seeds without their authorization.

Pricing is a barrier to people’s access to organic foods. Sophomore economics major Joseph Navarro said, “The prices for organic foods are higher than their non-organic counterparts, which makes it harder for people to access it.”

For Navarro and other college students, the desire to buy organic does not always align with the ability to do so. Since pesticides and pesticide-ready seeds are continuously finding their way into organic plots, the supply of organic foods is decreasing while demand is arguably increasing.

While prices for organic foods can be higher than non-organic foods, some people find that the benefits greatly outweigh the monetary cost.

Samantha Mejia, sophomore graphic design major, is one of these very people. She said, “I have bought organic before. While the goal was to lose weight, the pandemic definitely gave me more time to dive into new interests, causing me to go into health and fitness more.”

Thankfully, people are becoming more attuned to the effects of pesticides and are increasingly switching over to organic foods. You can even grow your very own organic produce at home.

Many resources are available online to get you started. If you don’t have a yard, then you can use pots. Did you know that there is an organic garden on campus?

Current faculty, staff and students can reserve a plot in the Green Acres community garden on a first-come, first-served basis through the Office of Sustainability.

With opportunities such as this to grow your own organic food, we all have the capability of switching to a healthier lifestyle, saving some money and making organic foods mainstream again as they always should have been.

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