Many people worry about pesticides in foods. Pesticides are used to reduce damage to crops from weeds, rodents, insects and germs. This increases the yield of fruits, vegetables and other crops.
This article focuses on pesticide residues, or the pesticides found on the surface of fruits and vegetables when they are purchased as groceries. It explores the most common types of pesticides used in modern farming and whether their residues affect human health.
What Are Pesticides?
In the broadest sense, pesticides are chemicals used to control any organism that might invade or damage crops, food stores or homes. Because there are many kinds of potential pests, there are several kinds of pesticides. The following are some examples:
- Insecticides: Reduce destruction and contamination of growing and harvested crops by insects and their eggs.
- Herbicides: Also known as weed killers, these improve crop yields.
- Rodenticides: Important for controlling destruction and contamination of crops by vermin and rodent-borne diseases.
- Fungicides: Especially important for protecting harvested crops and seeds from fungal rot.
Developments in agricultural practices, including pesticides, have increased crop yields in modern farming by two to eight times since the 1940s.
For many years, the use of pesticides was largely unregulated. However, the impact of pesticides on the environment and human health has been under greater scrutiny since the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson in 1962. Today, pesticides are under much greater scrutiny from governmental and non-governmental organizations.
The ideal pesticide would destroy its target pest without causing any adverse effects to humans, non-target plants, animals and the environment. The most commonly used pesticides come close to that ideal standard. However, they are not perfect, and their use does have health and environmental effects.
Pesticides aim to destroy pests without negatively affecting humans and the environment. Pesticides have gotten better over time, but none are perfect at providing pest control without side effects.