Used to combat organisms considered to be harmful, pesticides developed en masse during the 20th century. The promise of ever more nourishing agriculture has turned into disastrous dependence in many ways. What is the impact of pesticides on the environment and human health? Is there a way to do without it?
Pesticides: what impact on the environment and human health?
Pesticides contain Laboratory molecules, like glyphosate or neonicotinoids. When sprayed, these active substances can decompose in residues And contaminate water, air and soil, with dramatic repercussions for biodiversity and health.
Impact of pesticides on the environment
There are traces of pesticides in rivers, water tables, but also in tap water. Drinking water keeps traces in the form of "metabolites”, Molecules from the degradation of pesticides.
“Water quality control devices are the most advanced. They tell us about the presence of pesticides in the environment. It is through these statements that, very often, decisions can be made, ”explains Véronique Lucas, rural sociologist at INRAE (National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment).
For example, ANSES recently opened a procedure withdrawal from S-Métolachlore and its metabolites. This is one of the active herbicide substances The most used in France, present in our groundwater at levels exceeding quality standards.
Air and soil pollution
Air and soil pollution is the subject of much lower guidelines than water pollution. However, some studies are emerging. In 2018-2019, ANSES made a exploratory study pesticides in the air, which made it possible to identify 32 substances requiring an in -depth examination. Among them, the lindane, highly dangerous. It is present in almost 80 % of the samples analyzed, even though it has been prohibited in France for many years.
Some pesticides Contaminate soils in the long term. This is the case with chlordecone, used for more than 20 years in the Bananeraies of the Antilles. Prohibited since 1993, it is still very present in the soil (we speak of 25 % of the agricultural soils of Guadeloupe).
Consequences on biodiversity
The impact of pesticides on the environment leads to degradation of biodiversity. According to a recent communicated of the European Environment Agency, “The use of pesticides has resulted in significant declines of insect populations, threatening the essential roles they play in food production, in particular the pollination of most fruits of fruits and vegetables."
A Assessment published in 2019 by the LPO, the National Museum of Natural History and the OFB reports a 30 % drop in the number of birds specializing in agricultural environments, such as the lark of the fields and the partridge. Are in particular in question the intensification of agricultural practices and generalization of neonicotinoids. The decrease in the number of insects, which serve as bird food, is also an explanation for this decline.
The risks of health pesticides
We are every day Pesticides exposed Through food and drinking water, but also living near the spreading areas. In his communicated, the European Environment Agency evokes the study of human biosurveillance carried out between 2014 and 2021 in five European countries. This large -scale study revealed at least two pesticides present in the body of 84 % of its participants.
Children are particularly sensitive to the negative effects of chemicals. Human exposure to phytosanitary products can cause serious chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart, respiratory and neurological diseases, but also Development in children.
Our agricultural system, depending on pesticides
Why are pesticides still authorized?
Despite their harmful effects, France and Europe continue to allow marketing New phytosanitary products. “However, since 2000, the number of authorized molecules has halved. The process of monitoring on the market is more drastic, in particular at European level ” Indicates Véronique Lucas. The level of dependence is such that it is Impossible to prohibit all substances Over the next day without provoking a bankruptcy of European farmers.
The Sociologist of the INRAE adds: “We also observe a delay between scientific productions and their treatment with public action. It’s like dopants: time to treat the case of a supposedly dangerous molecule, others are on the market. ”
The causes of our dependence
Current agriculture inherits modernization process Started in the post-war period. At the time, the agricultural working population had to be reduced, to pour this workforce to industry and increase productivity.
“This context has printed a strong logic of increasing farmers' labor productivity, by increasing the surfaces operated by assets. For this, we used more and more chemical equipment and inputs, which replace the work ” Recalls Véronique Lucas.
For decades, everything has encouraged The increase in agricultural surfaces by assets: CAP surface aid, agricultural fuels detract… “Conversely, there is little agricultural employment aid. The logic of regional specialization also makes agricultural productions more vulnerable to bioagressors. ” HAS These macro factors are added a Low research orientation and public funding towards an ecological evolution of our agricultural system.
Is pesticides without?
Reduce the use of pesticides
Reducing the use of pesticides is a first step. In France, the plan Ecophyto II+, launched in 2018, talks about a 50 % reduction by 2025 And an exit from glyphosate in 2022. Meanwhile, the authorities have rear back, since glyphosate remains authorized in agriculture until the end of 2023.
LPrivate use Chemical substances is nevertheless prohibited since 2017. The state, local communities and public establishments can no longer use phytosanitary products for the maintenance of green spaces, walks, forests and roads. Since July 1, 2022, this ban has extended to many other places : hotels, cemeteries, family gardens, access roads, etc.
Consider the end of pesticides
Change agricultural model could of course constitute a solution. Several studies, including that of Cnrs, show that it is possible to go to the organic, provided you radically change our ways to produce and consume. Inrae also looked at 3 scenarios of a agriculture without pesticides.
Sociologist Véronique Lucas draws the conclusion that“It would take a public intervention acting on a diversity of levers: commercial policies in Europe, research & development in agriculture in all countries, farmers' training, material equipment ... This task requires multi-level and multisectoral political management And a strong will, both from European level to local level, including national and regional levels. ”
There Search linked to zero pesticides is very recent and does not benefit from massive investments. She struggles to question the general organization of our agricultural system, at the origin of current problems.
"Today, the increasingly strong presence of pesticide residues in water, combined with an unprecedented drought linked to climate change, has the effect of further concentrating these contaminants in reduced water bodies. This situation may force our governments to make more radical decisions ”, hopes Véronique Lucas. The researcher finally advocates massively rearing the agricultural working population, from 7.1 % of jobs in 1982 to 1.5 % in 2019. "This is one of the keys to do without pesticides" she concludes.
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