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    What are the risks, benefits and alternatives of pesticides?

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    Unit 4 discusses the problems associated with chemicals and their risk to human health. You are part of a team at the United Nations that addresses agricultural issues. A developing country has just had a massive outbreak of insect pests that are destroying their crops. What advice will you give them concerning the use of pesticides? Do you advise them to use them or not to use them?

    Answer the following in your posts:

    What are the risks of using pesticides?
    What are the benefits to using pesticides?
    Are there any alternatives to using chemical pesticides?
    Develop a plan of action for this country? What are your final recommendations for this country on pesticide use?

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    Solution Preview

    What are the risks of using pesticides?

    Though beneficial to the agricultural sector and in vector borne disease control, pesticides can cause both illnesses and death in humans. Pesticides are the poisonous substances that kill all type of organisms whether they are pest or not. Pesticides can be toxic to man, animals, and plants if improperly used. Thus, when sprayed in the fields, they kill not only the target organisms but also all other organisms that come in contact.

    Once in contact with the skin, pesticides can either be absorbed into the body or localized to the skin only. The common local effects seen are skin problems such as dermatitis. Absorption into the body can lead to various health problems eye irritation to upper respiratory tract problems to systemic poisoning, which can lead to death. Pesticides work by changing the speed of different body functions, increasing them (eg increasing the heart rate or sweating) or decreasing them (sometimes to the point of stopping them entirely, like breathing).

    Besides human health risks, pesticides also pose dangers to the environment. Non-target organisms can be severely impacted. In some cases, where a pest insect has some controls from a beneficial predator or parasite, an insecticide application can kill both pest and beneficial populations.

    They are not easily biodegradable and through food chain they accumulate in plant tissues, animals, and even in human beings.

    The insects are developing resistance to the pesticides.

    Another problem associated with these pesticides is biomagnification or bioconcentration. Most of the organochlorinated pesticides are soluble in the fat of animals. Also, these pesticides are not metabolized easily. Hence, they start accumulating in the bodies of animals.

    What are the benefits to using pesticides?

    Modern technology, including the use of pesticides to control insects, weeds, and disease-inducing agents, enables food production to support the world population of 4 billion people. With present technology, the world population cannot be fed without use of agricultural chemicals, including pesticides. The pesticides kill the pests that destroy the agricultural crops and thus the yield of the crop increases tremendously.

    Insecticides are also used to kill the insects which act as carrier or vector of many human diseases. Some of these diseases which can be controlled by use of chemical pesticides like DDT are malaria, dengue fever, filaria etc.

    Are there any alternatives to using chemical pesticides?

    Yes, there are ...

    Solution Summary

    This solution provides the role of pesticides in agriculture. It discusses the risks and benefits of using pesticides and provides alternatives to the use of pesticides. It then provides a plan of action for a country which has just had a massive outbreak of insect pests that are destroying their crops. This solution is 1,469 words.