An evaluation of the environmental impacts from pesticide use
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The multidimensional impacts of pesticides to consumers, farm workers, wildlife, and the environment are now an important component in policy decisions regarding agricultural production. In the quest for sustainability and safety in agriculture, various indices have been developed to help understand the hazard posed by pesticides to the various environmental components. We use the EIQ developed by Kovach et al. (1992) to estimate the overall hazards from pesticides and the pesticide impacts to workers, consumers, beneficial arthropods, birds, fish, and bees, using two case studies. Case Study I addresses impacts from pesticides used in U.S. cotton production for the years 1981/84, 1992, 1997, and 2002 for all cotton-producing states. We estimate these impacts using the overall EIQ rating and the seasonal environmental impacts (SEI) based on total pounds, pounds per harvested acre, and pounds per treated acre. The results in this case study indicate that impacts using both EIQ ratings and SEI showed higher declines between 1997 and 2002 than between the earlier study years. The SEI results are uniform irrespective of the insecticide application rate measurement used. The main differences among them are in magnitude. Case Study II focuses on the hazards from fumigants proposed as methyl bromide alternatives for tomatoes in Florida. The search for alternative fumigants has been ongoing since the 1991 Montreal Protocol that classified methyl bromide as an ozone depleting substance and destined it for phase-out. We determine the least toxic choice of these alternative fumigants based on their environmental impacts. Our findings indicate that Midas@98:2 is the least toxic alternative, and Telone II + Vapam is the second least toxic. Among environmental categories, workers and beneficial arthropods are the most impacted by both cotton pesticides and tomato fumigants. On the other hand, fish are the least affected by alternative fumigants, followed by consumers. Considering cotton insecticides, the least impacted categories vary by states among consumer, fish and birds.
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