Viewpoint: ‘A toxic soup of insecticides, herbicides and fungicides is wreaking havoc’ on soil in farms around the world

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Credit: Lynn Betts
Credit: Lynn Betts

Like citizens of an underground city that never sleeps, tens of thousands of subterranean species of invertebrates, nematodes, bacteria and fungi are constantly filtering our water, recycling nutrients and helping to regulate the earth’s temperature.

But beneath fields covered in tightly knit rows of corn, soybeans, wheat and other monoculture crops, a toxic soup of insecticides, herbicides and fungicides is wreaking havoc, according to our newly published analysis in the journal Frontiers in Environmental Science.

The study, the most comprehensive review ever conducted on how pesticides affect soil health, should trigger immediate and substantive changes in how regulatory agencies like the EPA assess the risks posed by the nearly 850 pesticide ingredients approved for use in the U.S.

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[O]ur analysis, conducted by researchers at the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth and the University of Maryland… encompassed 275 unique species or types of soil organisms and 284 different pesticides or pesticide mixtures. 

[See GLP Profile: Friends of the Earth]

Related article:  How activists, sloppy reporters turned genetic firewall story into hysteria-gram on GMO dangers

In just over 70 percent of those experiments, pesticides were found to harm organisms that are critical to maintaining healthy soils—harms that currently are never considered in the EPA’s safety reviews.

The ongoing escalation of pesticide-intensive agriculture and pollution are major driving factors in the precipitous decline of many soil organisms, like ground beetles and ground-nesting bees. 

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