Essay on Excessive Pesticide Use in Local Farms in Wyoming

Published: 2022/01/11
Number of words: 1660

Excessive pesticide use has been a growing concern among Wyoming’s local farms. Increasing levels of pesticide use have come to be applied among Wyoming’s farmers due to a dearth of technical knowledge and awareness on safe pesticide use regulations. Furthermore, Wyoming’s farms have been under greater pressure to produce higher volumes of agricultural produce at lower margins, and have strained to find sufficient labor due to a trend of rural urban migration. This has led Wyoming’s farmers to use pesticides more aggressively as a way of controlling pests in a more labor efficient and automated manner. The excessive uses of pesticides in Wyoming have had significant impacts on human health, economics and the environment in Wyoming. In this paper, the impact of excessive pesticide use on human health, economics and the environment will be discussed, followed by a review of strategies to address the issue, and key challenges in the implementation of such solutions.

Impact on human health, economics and the environment

Foremost, in terms of human health, pesticides have started to leach heavily into nearby groundwater and freshwater tables, and have resulted in the need for the Wyoming Department of Agriculture to routinely monitor Wyoming water sources for traces of fungicides, insecticides, and herbicides’ chemical compounds. From a sample of groundwater in Converse County, Wyoming, pesticides were found to have permeated the hydrologic cycle in Wyoming through evaporation, spray drift, pesticide runoff, seepage, and discharge of pesticide-laden groundwater to streams (Eddy Miller & Remley, 2005). A baseline monitoring study found the presence of atrazine, clopyralid, simazine, prometon and triclopyr among the focal pesticides tested in the county’s groundwater (Eddy Miller & Remley, 2005). These pesticides may have deleterious impacts on human health and may lead to the development of health conditions and disorders. In a study of the Moroccan agricultural population, the use of pesticides among agricultural workers was found to the connected to the development of the myasthenia gravis disease (Samih & Ahami, 2020). Furthermore, farmers and nearby communities may suffer chronic health conditions, such as irritation of the skin, nose and throat, and respiratory difficulties and headaches, as a result of excessive pesticide use.

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Secondly, excessive pesticide use has led to an increase in levels of pesticide related chemicals in local produce. In terms of economics, excessive pesticide use has led to increasing costs incurred for pesticides due to the genetic resistance to base levels of pesticides that occurred as a result of excessive pesticide use. Farmers have begun to incur more excessive costs for pest control, given that the volume of pesticides and insecticides required has increased due to genetic resistance to pesticides. Furthermore, the scale of pesticide use has the potential to increase, because genetically resistant crop pests may migrate across agricultural areas, as was the case with the Australian red legged earth mite (Halotydeus destructor), which migrated from Western Australia to South Eastern Australia (Maino et al, 2018). This suggests that pesticide use may not be economically efficient for farmers in the long term, given that ever-larger volumes of pesticide will need to be applied over increasingly large agricultural tracts of land in order for pesticides to retain their efficacy.

Finally, the environment in Wyoming has become tainted with pesticide chemicals, and pests have developed genetic resistance to pesticides, resulting in a vicious cycle of ever-increasing pesticide use. Pests can develop genetic resistance to pesticides due to rapid evolution under high levels of selective pressure, which induce variations to their genetic traits that lead them to develop resistance (Hawkins et al, 2019).

Strategies to address this issue

On an economic front, the Wyoming Department of Agriculture should levy subsidies on organic forms of pest control, such as spinosad, neem oil and rotenone, or the use of beneficial insects that would consume the pest insects as prey. A study by Jabbour & Noy (2017) found that producers tended to use pesticides and insecticides as their preferred form of pest control against grasshoppers and aphids due to their cost effectiveness (Jabbour & Noy, 2017). However, if farmers were to be fined for their use of conventional, environmentally pollutive pesticides and incentivised through subsidies to switch to organic, non pollutive forms of pest control, there would likely be a greater uptake in substitution to less pollutive forms of pest control.

To complement the role of subsidies and penalties, regulation and policy programs are important strategies to address the issue of excessive pesticide use in Wyoming. The Groundwater and Pesticide Strategy Committee in Wyoming eventually developed a state management plan, which included tracking of information related to pesticide use by individuals and entities in the state, and the promotion of methods of preventing groundwater contamination and pesticide contamination (Eddy Miller & Remley, 2005). In the groundwater monitoring program, baseline monitoring was used to determine the pesticides that had leached into the country’s groundwater, followed by problem identification monitoring to gather further information about groundwater in the vicinity of wells. Furthermore, a groundwater vulnerability map supported by a geographic information system was used to select monitoring sites where groundwater was most vulnerable to pesticide contamination (Eddy Miller & Remley, 2005). The Wyoming Department of Agriculture has also been charged with implementing programs such as compliance assistance and enforcement of pesticide control, management of pesticides in groundwater (as part of the state management plan), and licensing and training of pesticide applicators, dealers and waste management agencies. This ensures a comprehensive and well regulated state management plan for the management of pesticide use in Wyoming.

Challenges of implementing these solutions on the local level, and potential integration of solutions to the international level

There are a number of challenges that continue to restrict the implementation of these solutions at the local level. Foremost, economic strategies are often constrained by financial resources, and the Wyoming Department of Agriculture may not have sufficient political clout or appropriations to secure the necessary funding in order to subsidize organic pest control alternatives. Secondly, awareness of the impact of pesticide use on human health and the environment may continue to be low, and farmers and nearby communities may not be cognizant of the significant harms posed by pesticide use on human health and the environment. Thirdly, a lack of comprehensive data or the issue of missing data may hinder the targeted implementation of subsidies, fines and regulations to ensure a transition away from excessive pesticide use. Finally, a lack of technical expertise and a high level of operational inertia in the implementation and transition to new, environmentally-friendly forms of pesticide control may hinder the implementation of these solutions, as these issues may lead farmers to claim that they either do not know or do not have the operational resources to implement such changes.

The above solutions could be integrated in compliance with international pesticide use guidelines such as OECD Guidance on Pesticide Compliance and Enforcement Best Practices. The OECD guidelines serve as a comprehensive set of international regulations on the laws, compliance programs, issues, best practices and policy guidance on pesticide use. This covers the manufacturing, distribution, use, storage and disposal of pesticides. By harmonising Wyoming’s standards for pesticide use to the OECD guidelines, Wyoming can ensure that its programs, regulations, techniques and policies are up to date with the most effective international compliance programmes.

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Potential tools to overcome implementation challenges

Foremost, the lack of timely information should be overcome through the implementation of a comprehensive state management plan, with a centralised pesticide of interest tracking system, state-wide pesticide information retrieval system and certification plan and reporting system. Secondly, in order to overcome the lack of awareness on the impact of pesticide use, the subsidy, fine and regulatory plan in Wyoming should be effectively communicated to the key agricultural stakeholders. For example, in a study of Kuwaiti smallholder farmers, 76 pesticide active ingredients were detected in their farms, with the farmers remaining oblivious to the effects of such pesticides on the environment and human health (Jallow et al, 2017). Finally, community advocacy, community education programs and townhalls are important to ensure that farmers and local communities are aware of the need to reduce excessive pesticide use.

Conclusion

Excessive pesticide use remains a growing concern among Wyoming’s agricultural sector, with significant and deleterious impacts on human health, economics and the environment. There is thus a need for greater regulation and economic incentives to ensure a transition away from excessive pesticide use, accompanied by strong monitoring programs and community education initiatives.

References

Eddy-Miller, C. A., & Remley, K. J. (2005). Pesticides in Ground Water in Converse County, Wyoming, 2003-04. USGS, 1(5), 2005-3089. https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2005/3089/

Hawkins, N. J., Bass, C., Dixon, A., & Neve, P. (2019). The evolutionary origins of pesticide resistance. Biological Reviews94(1), 135-155. https://doi.org/10.1111/brv.12440

Jabbour, R., & Noy, S. (2017). Wyoming producer priorities and perceptions of alfalfa insect pests. Journal of Integrated Pest Management, 8(1), 26. https://doi.org/10.1093/jipm/pmx017

Jallow, M. F., Awadh, D. G., Albaho, M. S., Devi, V. Y., & Thomas, B. M. (2017). Pesticide risk behaviors and factors influencing pesticide use among farmers in Kuwait. Science of the Total Environment574, 490-498. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.09.085

Maino, J. L., Binns, M., & Umina, P. (2018). No longer a west-side story–pesticide resistance discovered in the eastern range of a major Australian crop pest, Halotydeus destructor (Acari: Penthaleidae). Crop and Pasture Science69(2), 216-221. https://doi.org/10.1071/CP17327

Samih, M., & Ahami, A. O. T. (2020). Excessive Pesticide Use Likely to Cause the Onset of Myasthenia Gravis in the Moroccan Agricultural Population. Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences23, 917-921. https://doi.org/10.3923/pjbs.2020.917.921

Sharafi, K., Pirsaheb, M., Maleki, S., Arfaeinia, H., Karimyan, K., Moradi, M., & Safari, Y. (2018). Knowledge, attitude and practices of farmers about pesticide use, risks, and wastes; a cross- sectional study (Kermanshah, Iran). Science of the total environment645, 509-517.

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