Myths & Facts
Myths about pesticides are a testimony to the power of advertising, marketing and lobbying. Pesticide corporations, like big tobacco and the oil industry, have systematically manufactured doubt about the science behind pesticides, and fostered the myth that their products are essential to life as we know it — and harmless if "used as directed."
The book Merchants of Doubt calls it the Tobacco Strategy: orchestrated PR and legal campaigns to deny the evidence, often using rogue scientists to invent controversy around so-called "junk science" to deny everything — from second-hand smoke causing cancer to global warming to the hazards of DDT.
Here are eight of the seemingly plausible myths we hear from agrichemical corporations every day:
Pesticides are necessary to the feed the world
Pesticides aren't that dangerous
The dose makes the poison
The government is protecting us
GMOs reduce reliance on pesticides
We're weaning ourselves off of pesticides
Pesticides are the answer to global climate change
We need DDT to end malaria, combat bedbugs, etc.
Myth #1: "Pesticides are necessary to the feed the world"
Woman farmingReality: The most comprehensive analysis of world agriculture to date tells us that what can feed the world — and what feeds most of the world now, in fact — is small-scale agriculture that does not rely on pesticides.
DowDuPont, Bayer (now merged with Monsanto), Syngenta and other pesticide producers have marketed their products as necessary to feed the world. Yet as insecticide use increased in the U.S. by a factor of 10 in the 50 years following World War II, crop losses almost doubled. Corn is illustrative: in place of crop rotations, most acreage was planted year after year only with corn. Despite more than a 1,000-fold increase in use of organophosphate insecticides, crop losses to insects has risen from 3.5% to 12% (D. Pimental and M. Pimental, 2008).
More to the point, hunger in an age of plenty isn't a problem of production (or yields, as the pesticide industry claims), efficiency or even distribution. It is a matter of priorities. If we were serious about feeding people, we wouldn't grow enough extra grain to feed 1/3 of the world's hungry — and then pour it into gas tanks.