Though it’s been publicized that humanity requires pesticides to avoid world hunger, a new report by United Nations food and pollution experts says this is actually a myth.
The report calls out corporations that manufacture pesticides, accusing them of “systematic denial of harms,” “aggressive, unethical marketing,” and swaying governments to stop reforms and global pesticide restrictions from passing. According to the report, pesticides have “catastrophic impacts on the environment, human health and society as a whole.” And despite all their harm, pesticides do nothing to help world hunger.
By 2050, the world’s population will reportedly increase by 2 billion people. Considering it’s estimated that about 795 million people of the 7.3 billion people in the world, or one in nine, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2014-2016, that projection should disquiet us all. If we are on track to see 9 billion people living on Earth in 2050, world hunger stands to become an even greater problem.
The pesticide industry’s response to such a concern is an argument that its market is an essential part of ensuring sufficient food supplies.
“It is a myth,” said Hilal Elver, the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to food. “Using more pesticides is nothing to do with getting rid of hunger. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), we are able to feed 9 billion people today. Production is definitely increasing, but the problem is poverty, inequality and distribution.”
According to Elver, many of the pesticides used are on commodity crops like palm oil and soy, not foods necessary for treating world hunger. “The corporations are not dealing with world hunger, they are dealing with more agricultural activity on large scales.”
The new report noted:
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. This challenge has been exacerbated by a systematic denial, fuelled by the pesticide and agro-industry, of the magnitude of the damage inflicted by these chemicals, and aggressive, unethical marketing tactics.
The pesticide industry is a market worth $50 billion a year, killing at least 250,000–370,000 people each year.
The report explained: “Chronic exposure to pesticides has been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, hormone disruption, developmental disorders and sterility.
“The industry frequently uses the term ‘intentional misuse’ to shift the blame on to the user for the avoidable impacts of hazardous pesticides,” the report said. “Yet clearly, the responsibility for protecting users and others throughout the pesticide life cycle and throughout the retail chain lies with the pesticide manufacturer.”
The report provided a solution to the injustice of false reporting and reported health hazards of the pesticide industry, recommending a global treaty to oversee the use of pesticides, while pushing for sustainable practices like natural methods of hindering pests and crop rotation. It also suggested incentivizing organically produced food.