There is a common misconception that farmers are eager to “drown” or “douse” their crops in whatever pesticides available. It’s as if we go into the fields as often as we can to spray as much as we can. People somehow imagine this is how we squeeze out every penny we can out of a crop.
This could not be farther from the truth.
Pesticides are expensive! In addition to paying for the chemicals, it also takes time and money to actually apply it to the fields. We are also very aware of the environment when deciding whether to spray something. We have zero interest in poisoning our fields or polluting our water, because we want to use those fields and drink that water for years and years to come.
Before we apply any pesticides to a field, we do a cost benefit analysis to make sure that the cost of the application is going to be worth it in terms of how much pest damage is likely. If the amount of pest damage in a field is likely to cost less than the application, then we are not going to apply it. Farming is a business, too.
As for insecticides, we haven’t used them on corn since we adopted the Bt trait. Not a drop. That is precisely how farmers have been able to decrease insecticide use since 1972, when the amount peaked, so drastically – technology, science, and best practices.
What is even more impressive is that during this time of drastically reducing our insecticide use, we have also increased our production. In other words, as we have found ways to use less insecticide, we have also been growing and harvesting more and more food.
So, next time you hear someone complain about how much farmers spray to control for the bugs and insects, show them this statistic. It might just make them stop and think.
Check out the USDA for more information.