Pesticide debate

SCOTT JAGOW: Some of the scientists at Environmental Protection are wagging their fingers at the agency. They say the EPA is not looking closely enough at ingredients used in pesticides. They say the EPA is rushing in order to meet a deadline today. From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk Sam Eaton reports.

SAM EATON: So-called organophosphate pesticides were derived from World War II-era nerve gas.

They're banned in England, Sweden and Denmark, but pesticide advocates say in the US these compounds are indispensable.

Leonard Gianessi with the trade group Crop Life America says nothing else offers farmers a bigger bang for their buck.

LEONARD GIANESSI: They come and a rule of thumb is $4 of value for farmers for farmers for every $1 they spend.

He says pesticide use in agriculture can increase crop yields by 20 percent, boosting value for US consumers. But at what price? David Pementel is an Ag science professor at Cornell University.

DAVID PEMENTEL: When we list the advantages of pesticides very seldom if ever are the environmental and public health costs of using pesticides stated loud and clear.

Pementel says those unaccounted costs amount to about $10 billion a year.

I'm Sam Eaton for Marketplace.

About the author

Sam Eaton is an independent radio and television journalist. His reporting on complex environmental issues from climate change to population growth has taken him all over the United States and the world.


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