One study had found that 64 percent of agricultural land across 168 countries is at high risk of pesticide pollution. Not surprisingly about a third of this land was considered highly likely to be at risk.

Researchers published a study in Nature Geoscience that created a global model in which pollution risks generated by 92 chemicals commonly used in agricultural pesticides were mapped in 168 countries.

Researchers examined the risk to the environment, soil, and ground and surface water, showing that Asia has the highest risk of pollution, particularly Malaysia, Japan, China, and the Philippines. These countries are recognized as “global food bowls,” providing food for a large portion of the world.

Dr. Fiona Tang, the lead researcher and University of Sydney Research Associate, said pesticides used in agriculture could have severe effects on the environment, human and animal health — even though they might boost productivity.

“Our study indicates 64% of the world’s farmland is exposed to pesticide pollution, which is highly significant as pesticide pollution has been linked to adverse health effects for both humans and the environment,” said Tang.

Pollutants can enter surface and groundwater through infiltration and runoff, ultimately polluting water bodies and decreasing their usability.

“In general, our study uncovered that 34% of high-risk regions were located in biodiversity-rich areas, 19% in low-and lower-middle-income nations, and 5% in water-scarce areas,” said Dr. Fiona Tang.

The Sydney Institute of Agriculture’s Associate Professor and co-author Federico Maggi said that Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin, which has a high level of biodiversity and water scarcity, is still a major concerned watershed according to pesticide pollution although currently, it shows low-risk levels.

Moreover, studies indicate that the overuse of pesticides will destabilize ecosystems and impair the quality of water sources that are essential for humans and animals to survive.

It is expected that the use of pesticides will increase to meet the global food needs and improve productivity as the global population will approach an estimated 8.5 billion by 2030.

“With the projected global population growth, during warmer climate is expected to result in increased use of pesticides to guard against invasions of pests and provide food for millions of more people,” said co-author Maggi.

In his concluding remarks, Dr. Tang pointed out that, even though food production needs to be safeguarded, eliminating pesticide pollution is just as important to maintain soil health and contribute to food security. Therefore, to manage and minimize pesticide use risks, it will be important to monitor residues carefully on an annual basis to detect trends.


DOI: 10.1038/s41561-021-00712-5

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