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Economic Issues of US Agricultural Pesticide Use

  1. Craig Osteen,
  2. Merritt Padgitt

Published Online: 15 APR 2003

DOI: 10.1002/047126363X.agr066

Encyclopedia of Agrochemicals

Encyclopedia of Agrochemicals

How to Cite

Osteen, C. and Padgitt, M. 2003. Economic Issues of US Agricultural Pesticide Use. Encyclopedia of Agrochemicals. .

Author Information

  1. Economic Research Service, USDA, Washington, District of Columbia

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 APR 2003


The use of synthetic organic pesticides in US agriculture grew dramatically from the late 1940s until the early 1980s, stabilized in the 1980s, and increased at a much slower rate through the 1990s. The extent of pesticide use responded to market factors, such as price trends, which affected crop acreage and encouraged use of more cost-effective inputs, but also to farm programs. The development of genetically modified crops, if accepted by consumers and regulators, may influence future pesticide use trends, crop yields, and pest control costs. Increased pesticide use led to concerns about counterproductive effects on pest control, such as increased pest resistance. Scientists developed the concepts of integrated pest management (IPM) and economic thresholds to eliminate unnecessary pesticide applications and encourage nonpesticide practices where economically feasible. Increased pesticide use also led to controversies about food safety, water quality, worker safety, and wildlife mortality. These concerns, and changing societal attitudes emerging in the 1960s, resulted in a series of laws, including the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996, that changed the regulatory process to emphasize protection from pesticide hazards. The regulatory process affects pesticide use by influencing the development of pesticides, registering new materials, and removing others from the market.


  • agricultural pesticide use;
  • insecticides;
  • fungicides;
  • herbicides;
  • Integrated pest management (IPM);
  • pesticide regulation;
  • pesticide laws;
  • food Quality Protection Act of 1996