Pesticides are widely used all over the world; in agriculture, in the
home, in the garden, for preserving timber and treating textiles and in
a wide range of everyday industrial processes. In agriculture they have
helped to increase yields and protect crops both in developed countries
and in the Third World.
But pesticides do more than that. They are used after a crop has been
harvested. This increases the life of the crop by protecting it from
pests and diseases while it is being stored. This means that a wider
range of produce is available. They improve hygiene by killing flies and
cockroaches and by preventing other good risks. They fight plagues of
locusts and rodents. Pesticides protect human health by, for example,
controlling mosquitoes which carry malaria.
What Are Pesticides?
Pesticides kill pests. Pests are animals, or other organisms such as
moulds, that harm our food, our health, or our environment - in other
words, the way we live. The term also covers weedkillers (herbicides)
which are used to help crops grow better.
'Pesticides' is a very wide ranging subject. It raises issues as
varied as residues in food, effects on wildlife and the environment, and
the safety of people who work with them.
It is not possible to discuss all these issues here. This booklet
answers the most common questions about pesticides and food - their
control; their entry into the food chain; and what is being done to make
sure that or food is safe.
The following are all pesticides:
- Bird and animal repellents
- Food storage protectors
- Industrial and domestic pest control products
- Mould-killing substances
- Paints to stop marine growth on boats
- Plant growth regulators
- Products to prevent lichen, moss and fungi growing on buildings
- Rat poisons
- Soil sterilants
- Wood preservations
Why Use Pesticides?
We enjoy a good supply and a wide range of quality food all year
round. We would not have this supply of fod at the quality we now expect
at today's prices, without using some pesticides.
It is estimated that without pesticides, 30% of the world's crops would be lost before they were harvested.
When we buy food, we usually try to avoid anything that's mouldy or
has been damaged - not only does it look unattractive, it may also be
bad for our health.
Pesticides can improve the quality of food and increase its yield, helping to keep prices down.
Pesticides help to preserve exotic food from around the world so that
it reaches our shops in good condition, and so we have a wider choice.
Pesticides can lengthen storage times to extend the seasons and give a year round supply of the most popular foods.
Pesticides are important for food hygiene. They prevent rats, mice,
flies and other insects from contaminating foods while they are being
stored, on display for sale, in restaurants or in kitchens in homes.
However, the Government has strict controls on pesticides and aims to
ensure that the amount of pesticides used is limited to the minimum
amount needed to control pests effectively. Human health and
environmental factors are taken fully into account.
Aren't There Enough Chemicals Already?
Pyrethrum is a natural insecticide produced by a kind of
chrysanthemum. The stinging nettle produces a natural poison as a
defence mechanism. We only eat the stalks of rhubarb - no the leaves,
because the leaves contain too much natural oxalic acid.
Chemicals have to be put in perspective - even we are made up of
chemicals. Therefore, it is a mistake to think that all chemicals are
man-made. Nature produces some highly effective chemical pesticides and
What Are The Risks?