Majority of Land for Growing Food at Risk for Pesticide Pollution

Researchers of a new study produced a global map of agricultural land across 168 countries. The study examined risk to soil, the atmosphere, and surface and ground water.  The data revealed that 64 percent of land used for agriculture and food crops is at risk of pesticide pollution*. Almost a third of these areas are considered to be at high-risk.**  The global model mapping reveals that the pollution risk is caused by 92 chemicals commonly used in agricultural pesticides.  The problem?  Widespread use of pesticides in agriculture, while boosting productivity, has potential adverse implications for the environment*** and human and animal health.

*Global pesticide use is expected to increase as the global population heads towards an expected 8.5 billion by 2030.

*The highest risk areas include China, Japan, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Some of these areas are considered “food bowl” nations, feeding a large portion of the world’s population.

**There is concern that overuse of pesticides will tip the balance, destabilize ecosystems and degrade the quality of water sources that humans and animals rely on to survive. Pesticides can be transported to surface waters and groundwater through runoff and infiltration, polluting water bodies, thereby reducing the usability of water resources.

“This study shows it will be important to carefully monitor [pesticide] residues on an annual basis to detect trends in order to manage and mitigate risks from pesticide use.” 

-Professor Alex McBratney, Director of the Sydney Institute of Agriculture at the University of Sydney

What is the solution?  Researchers conducting the study say:

“We recommend a global strategy to transition towards a sustainable, global agricultural model that reduces food wastage while reducing the use of pesticides.”


Journal Reference: Fiona H. M. Tang, Manfred Lenzen, Alexander McBratney, Federico Maggi. Risk of pesticide pollution at the global scale. Nature Geoscience, 2021; DOI: 10.1038/s41561-021-00712-5