Our food supply needs pesticides – it’s as simple as that. Without access to these tools, US and global agriculture could not sustainably feed the world. Furthermore, attempts to do so would likely lead to environmental catastrophe. It is true that some production methods, such as organic, may use fewer pesticides than conventional agriculture—although, even organic producers can and do use some pesticides. However, contrary to popular belief, pesticides are responsible for significantly improving environmental outcomes in agriculture.
A 2021 meta-analysis found conventional crops averaged a 25% greater yield than their organic counterparts, with cereal crops reaching a 30% average yield gap. This means if we were to switch our entire food production system to organic, we would need to put at least 25% more land—hundreds of millions of acres—into agricultural production to feed the planet’s existing population, to say nothing of a rapidly growing global population. Pesticides also make possible many important conservation practices used by farmers, such as cover crops and no-till soil management. These pesticide-supported practices sequester carbon in the soil, reduce soil erosion, minimize nutrient losses to rivers and streams, among other benefits.