Opinion: To confront climate change, go pesticide-free – Maryland Matters

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A farmer uses pesticides on a growing field. Stock.adobe.com photo by The witness.

By Cleo Braver and Caitlin Ceryes

Braver is the owner of Cottingham Farms in the East and chair of the board of the Maryland Pesticide Education Network. Suryes is an assistant professor in the Public Health Program at Towson University.

Wildfire smoke from Canada. Record-breaking summer heat. Sea level rise. More intense storms and more frequent flooding. Here in Maryland we are already seeing the effects of climate change.

There are other less visible impacts from climate change: the increase in pests and weeds as temperatures rise.

Yet, ironically, some of the substances we use to kill pests and weeds are key contributors to climate change.

as a Reported by the Pesticide Action Network of North America (PANNA); The pesticide-climate change relationship is cyclical. Some synthetic herbicides and nutrients, for example, affect soil organisms that are important for storing carbon. Pesticides and their products increase emissions into the atmosphere that accelerate climate change; Climate change puts stress on agricultural systems and increases insect populations; More pests add pesticides to protect the crops – and the cycle repeats.

The production, application and disposal of pesticides all contribute to climate change. When Pesticides are produced, the three main greenhouse gases emitted are carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Most of them are synthetic pesticides Derived from fossil fuelsAnd, as noted in the PANA report, several oil and gas companies play a major role in developing their products.

According to PANNA, many climate change solutions do not address reducing the use of synthetic pesticides, and – more worryingly – some industrial agriculture groups support the use of these products to combat climate change. This has to stop.

As farmers and professors of public health, we are deeply concerned about the future of soil health. Our food supply; And, most importantly, the health of our society from the overuse of pesticides.

A 2021 study Since 2005, pesticide use has more than doubled for many products that are used to limit insect populations, leading to significant increases in pollinator and aquatic invertebrate deaths. This is of particular concern because pesticides can remain in the soil for years or even decades after application. This affects the health of the soil, which affects the quality and quantity of our grain. In fact, the European Union (EU) bans a quarter of agricultural pesticides used in US Because studies show that these pesticides are very toxic.

Pesticides not only harm the environment but also human health. After all, pesticides are designed to kill living things. These substances can cause serious consequences for people exposed to them, including chronic disease, quality of life and even death. The real cost of pesticides is more than the purchase price. It is estimated that the US spends 340 billion dollars each year on disease-related costs involving many pesticides.

It is important to note that this is an environmental injustice issue for agricultural workers and other jobs that are vulnerable to pesticides. A Recent review Low-income families and families of color are exposed to chemicals that damage the nervous system — such as lead and pesticides — and experience more harm. The review found that black and Hispanic children have a higher exposure to organophosphate pesticides, commonly used in agriculture, which lead to severe neurological effects. If we do not act to curb the use of these dangerous products, this injustice will continue.

Fortunately, there are opportunities to fight for a better future. As of 2020, according to a report from the Rodale Institute“Renewal agriculture has the potential to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in a practical and cost-effective way – all while addressing the planet’s water crisis, extreme poverty and food insecurity, protecting and growing the environment, and revitalizing food. Organic soil facilitates carbon sequestration. Reducing the use of pesticides It is central To the redevelopment of agriculture.

Armed with this knowledge, we can take action. We can vote for lawmakers who support alternatives to pesticides. We can buy local, pesticide-free food from the farmer’s market, or we can buy organic foods. We can have pesticide-free lawns and gardens to keep toxic chemicals out of our soil and waterways.

Here in Maryland is the grounds of our State House. A model for successful pesticide-free lawn care – Naturally retained soils facilitate carbon sequestration. We appreciate Moore’s management continuing to keep the campus pesticide-free.

We know climate change is affecting Maryland. We also know how to protect the health and well-being of our families, ecosystems and food supply. “Confronting climate change presents an opportunity for Maryland to lead,” said Governor Wes Moore.

Let’s conserve water, food and public health by sequestering carbon in the atmosphere for pesticide-free, healthy soil.

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