Two-thirds of the world’s agricultural land is at risk of pesticide pollution

Several mass producers of rice and other grains in Asia are most at risk of large-scale pesticide pollution.

A team of Australian researchers has mapped the pollution risks of 92 chemicals commonly used in agricultural pesticides in 168 countries and their results should give us food for thought.

Scientists have found that nearly two-thirds, or 64%, of arable land used for cultivation is at risk of pesticide pollution, with nearly a third of at-risk areas facing considerable threats from chemical pollutants.

The global area identified as at risk is 24.5 million square kilometers, two and a half times the size of Canada, the second largest country in the world.

Several mass producers of rice and other essential grains that feed billions in Asia, including China, Japan, Malaysia and the Philippines, are most at risk of large-scale pesticide pollution, researchers say .

Worse: Of the high-risk areas, a third are in high biodiversity regions where dangerous chemicals are a constant threat to wildlife.

Another 5% of arable land at risk is in areas where water is scarce. Harmful chemicals from pesticides can seep into surface and groundwater sources through runoff and seepage, potentially leading to the loss of valuable fresh water in areas already in scarcity.

“We identify the watersheds of South Africa, China, India, Australia and Argentina as areas of great concern as they present a high risk of pesticide pollution, high biodiversity and suffer from water shortage, “the scientists write in a statement. to study published in the journal Nature.

Disturbingly, the use of pesticides has increased around the world and many experts have sounded the alarm bells about the harmful effects of these chemicals. Insect populations around the world, for example, are under stress, which means that key pollinators like bees and bumblebees are increasingly missing from areas.

At the current rate, the use of pesticides around the world is expected to increase further in the years to come.

“In a warmer climate, as the world’s population increases, the use of pesticides is expected to increase to combat the possible increase in pest infestations and feed more people,” Federico Maggi, associate professor at the School of Civil Engineering and at the Sydney Institute of Agriculture who was an author of the study.

Reducing the rate of pesticide use will be essential if we are to protect biodiversity in and around agricultural areas, says Fiona Tand, associate researcher at the University of Sydney and lead author of the study.

“Although the protection of food production is essential for human development, reducing pollution by pesticides is just as crucial to protect the biodiversity that maintains the health and functions of soils, thus contributing to food security“, Tang said.

Amalia H. Mercado