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Keywords:

  • pesticide use;
  • pesticide regulation;
  • FIFRA;
  • Food Quality Protection Act

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. 1 INTRODUCTION
  4. 2 METHODS: ESTIMATION OF PESTICIDE USE
  5. 3 TRENDS IN PESTICIDE USE
  6. 4 ECONOMIC FACTORS AFFECTING THE USE OF PESTICIDES
  7. 5 COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE APPLICATIONS OF PESTICIDES
  8. 6 PESTICIDE REGULATORY POLICY
  9. 7 SUMMARY
  10. REFERENCES

BACKGROUND

This paper discusses U.S. agricultural pesticide use trends from 1964 to 2010 based on estimates developed from USDA surveys, and the influence of economic factors, agricultural policy, and pesticide regulation on aggregate quantities and mix of pesticides used.

RESULTS

Synthetic organic pesticide use grew dramatically from the 1960s to the early 1980s, as farmers treated more and more acreage. Use then stabilized, with herbicides applied to about 95% of corn, cotton, and soybean acres, annually. Subsequently, major factors affecting trends were: (1) changes in crop acreage and other economic factors, (2) use of new pesticides that reduced per-acre application rates and/or met more rigorous health and environmental standards, and (3) adoption of genetically engineered insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant crops.

CONCLUSION

The use of pesticides and other control practices responded to economic factors such as input and output markets and agricultural policies. Changing societal values toward pesticide risks and benefits profoundly affected pesticide policy, influencing the pesticides available for use, but only indirectly affecting aggregate quantities used. While the current pesticide regulatory process might have economic inefficiencies, it might be consistent with policy preferences held by much of the public—to reduce pesticide hazards rather than minimize regulatory costs. Published 2013. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.

1 INTRODUCTION

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. 1 INTRODUCTION
  4. 2 METHODS: ESTIMATION OF PESTICIDE USE
  5. 3 TRENDS IN PESTICIDE USE
  6. 4 ECONOMIC FACTORS AFFECTING THE USE OF PESTICIDES
  7. 5 COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE APPLICATIONS OF PESTICIDES
  8. 6 PESTICIDE REGULATORY POLICY
  9. 7 SUMMARY
  10. REFERENCES

The development and growing use of synthetic organic pesticides, other manufactured inputs, and improved genetic stock contributed to technological changes that increased total factor productivity of U.S. agriculture by 2.5 times from 1948 to 2009.[1] Synthetic organic pesticide use grew dramatically from the 1960s to the early 1980s, as farmers adopted this technology, but stabilized once farmers used pesticides widely. Since then, other major factors affected pesticide use trends: (1) changes in crop acreage and other economic factors, (2) the development of pesticides that reduced per-acre application rates and/or met more rigorous health and environmental standards, and (3) the adoption of genetically engineered insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant crops since the mid-1990s. Pesticides as a portion of farm production expenses (excluding operator dwellings) rose from 0.9% in 1951, to 1.3% in 1964, to 5.0% in 1998, but declined to 3.9% in 2010 (Economic Research Service, USDA (http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/farm-income-and-wealth-statistics.aspx#27458)).

Growth in pesticide use created many controversies about potential effects on food safety, water quality, worker safety, wildlife mortality, and pest control. Increased public concern about the dietary risks of pesticides during the 1980s and 1990s led to a major change in pesticide law. As a result, current pesticide policy focuses on reducing dietary and other risks to meet safety standards, rather than weighing risks and benefits, and mitigating impacts by finding ‘safer’ alternatives. This paper reviews overall trends in the quantity and mix of pesticides used from 1964 to 2010, and discusses the effects of economic factors, agricultural policy, and pesticide policy, including implementation of the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 (FQPA).

2 METHODS: ESTIMATION OF PESTICIDE USE

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. 1 INTRODUCTION
  4. 2 METHODS: ESTIMATION OF PESTICIDE USE
  5. 3 TRENDS IN PESTICIDE USE
  6. 4 ECONOMIC FACTORS AFFECTING THE USE OF PESTICIDES
  7. 5 COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE APPLICATIONS OF PESTICIDES
  8. 6 PESTICIDE REGULATORY POLICY
  9. 7 SUMMARY
  10. REFERENCES

Pesticide use estimates, measured in million pounds of active ingredient (a.i.), for corn, cotton, soybeans, wheat, potatoes, other vegetables, apples, citrus, and other fruits were constructed from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) surveys conducted from 1964 to 2010. The estimates exclude use on such crops as peanuts, rice, sorghum, barley, oats, rye, other grains, tobacco, alfalfa, hay, pasture, and nuts, because they were not surveyed or surveyed infrequently after 1982. The estimates also exclude sulfur, oils, sulfuric acid, other non-conventional pesticides, post-harvest pesticide use, and non-active components of pesticide products. The Economic Research Service, USDA (ERS), conducted national pesticide use surveys in 1964, 1966, 1971, 1976, and 1982.[2-6] Beginning in 1990, the National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA (NASS), conducted systematic surveys of major field crops, fruits, and vegetables, but reduced frequency after 1997[7-9] (Table 1).

Table 1. Crops surveyed from 1990 to 2010
CropYears surveyed
Corn1990–2003, 2005, 2010
Cotton1990–2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2010
Soybeans1990–2002, 2004–2006
Wheat1990–1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2009
Potatoes1990–1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2010
Other vegetables1990–2010, even years, except 2008
Apples1991–2009, odd years
Citrus and other deciduous fruit1991–2009, odd years, except 2007

2.1 Quantities of pesticides applied

Lin et al.,[10] Padgitt,[11] Padgitt et al.,[12] and Osteen and Padgitt[13, 14] presented use estimates for 1964 to 1997 developed from USDA surveys. The estimates from 1964 to 1982 were used unmodified in this paper, as were the 1990–1993 estimates for field crops, apples, and other deciduous fruit. Estimates for 1994 to 2010 were computed using NASS estimates of total pesticide use for each crop by type (herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and other pesticides), removing sulfur, oils, and sulfuric acid (on potatoes), using methods similar to those in the previously cited reports. When crop surveys did not include all producing States, the average use rates per planted acre, by type, for surveyed States, were assumed for the remaining crop acreage. (Crop acreage estimates were obtained from NASS.[15-18]) To estimate quantities on crops in non-survey years from 1990 to 2010, the average application rate per planted acre for each pesticide type was computed as the linear interpolation between rates in the survey years immediately before and after, and multiplied by the crop's planted acreage for that year. (The 1994 to 1997 estimates were re-computed with these procedures, using NASS's final planted acreage statistics for those years.) Estimates for soybeans from 2007 to 2010, wheat for 2010, and vegetables (except potatoes) for 2010 assume application rates from the last survey year, which were multiplied by each crop's planted acreage for the appropriate year. It became apparent that the estimates for citrus insecticides from 1992 to 1997 and vegetable fungicides (excluding potatoes) from 1990 to 1997 in the sources cited above included sulfur, unlike the other crop estimates. These estimates were recomputed by removing NASS estimates of sulfur quantities in survey years and interpolating new use estimates in non-survey years (see also Note a, after the References).

2.2 A caveat for interpreting pesticide use estimates and trends

Since the total estimates constructed for this paper excluded some crops and all post-harvest uses, they are always less than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) estimates of agricultural pesticide use (Fig. 1).[19, 20] However, both sets of estimates exclude sulfur, oils and sulfuric acid. The constructed trend (for this paper) and USEPA trend diverge for some time periods and converge in others. One reason is that USDA did not conduct pesticide surveys every year and missing estimates for this paper are interpolated between survey estimates, so that the constructed series misses some high and low points and variations in the USEPA series. From 1964 to 1990, the constructed trend uses straight-line interpolations between survey estimates, which do not account for crop acreage variation, but after 1990, interpolated crop estimates account for acreage variations and interpolated application rates. However, the decreasing frequency of USDA surveys after 1997 means that more crop estimates are based on interpolations and fewer on survey estimates than before that date. The greater reliance on interpolations could reduce the reliability of the constructed estimates after 1997 and contribute to the constructed and USEPA trends converging from 2000 to 2006, with the constructed trend increasing and USEPA trend decreasing. Due to the interpolation procedure, any surveys conducted after 2010 would result in modifications of crop and aggregate estimates in years after the crop was last surveyed (for example, the last soybean survey was in 2006).

image

Figure 1. Comparison of U.S. agricultural pesticide use estimates.

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2.3 Use of pesticide families

The changing mix of insecticide and herbicide compounds used over time was illustrated by shares of total use for herbicide or insecticide ‘families’ (or classes), aggregated across corn, cotton, soybeans, wheat and potatoes, which account for a large proportion of total pesticide use and were surveyed in more years than other crops. The shares were computed for two use measures: (1) quantity of active ingredient for selected years from 1964 to 2010, and (2) acre-treatments (acreage treated with pesticides multiplied by average number of applications) for selected years from 1982 to 2010 (since the 1964 to 1976 ERS surveys did not provide information to compute acre-treatments).

Active ingredients were classified into families using Alan Wood's Compendium of Common Names [Wood A (http://www.alanwood.net/pesticides/class_pesticides.html)] and other sources (see also Note b, after the References). Sources disagree about the classification of glyphosate. Some classify it as a phosphinic acid, others as an organophosphorous herbicide, along with glufosinate and sulfosate. Some recent sources leave glyphosate and glufosinate unclassified or in different families. This paper classifies glyphosate, glufosinate, and sulfosate as phosphinic acids. Since glyphosate accounted for 95–98% of phosphinic acid acre-treatments in 2000, 2005 and 2010, for practical purposes in this paper, phosphinic acid use equals glyphosate use.

Estimates of insecticide and herbicide shares by major families from 1964 to 1991 were previously presented in Osteen and Padgitt.[13, 14] The estimates for 1964, 1966, 1971 and 1976 were reported in ERS survey reports, while 1982, 1991 and 1995 estimates were computed from ERS and NASS survey data.[21] (This paper uses 1995 estimates instead of the 1997 estimates reported in Osteen and Padgitt, both previously computed from the same source, to maintain 4–5 year time intervals between estimates from 1991 to 2010.) The estimates for 2000, 2005 and 2010 were approximated from NASS reports, excluding use of materials not reported. For these three years, acre-treatments for individual active ingredients used on a crop were estimated as the product of average number of treatments per acre, % of crop acreage treated/100, and crop acreage surveyed. (Alternatively, acre-treatments can be computed by dividing quantity of a material applied by average per-acre application rate for a single treatment.) Acre-treatments of all active ingredients reported were totaled for each pesticide family and crop. Survey data were not available for 2000 potatoes, 2005 wheat, 2010 soybeans, and 2010 wheat. For 2000 potatoes and 2005 wheat, quantities and acre-treatments per crop acre for each family were interpolated from the surveys immediately before and after, and then multiplied by the crop's acreage for the appropriate year. For 2010 soybeans and wheat, the average quantity and applications per crop acre for each family from the previous survey were multiplied by the 2010 crop acreage. (New surveys of soybeans or wheat could result in modified estimates for 2010.)

2.4 Acreages treated

The percentages of acreage treated with insecticides, herbicides, fungicides or other pesticides and of acreage growing genetically engineered crops show extent of use and help explain aggregate pesticide use trends. For pesticides, the measure shows the proportion of crop acreage receiving one or more pesticides of a specific type, but does not account for quantity applied or the number of applications. The estimates were obtained from USDA survey reports for corn, cotton, soybeans, wheat (winter, durum, and other spring), potatoes and apples.[5-9, 22-26] Other selected vegetables (head lettuce, fresh and processing sweet corn, fresh and processing tomatoes, and strawberries), and tree fruits (grapes, peaches, oranges and grapefruit) are discussed for illustrative purposes, but there are too may crops to discuss individually in this paper. Genetically engineered, insect-resistant seed is not considered an insecticide for this measure. Estimates for genetically engineered corn, cotton and soybeans, beginning in 1996 were obtained from NASS[27] (see also Note c, after the References.)

3 TRENDS IN PESTICIDE USE

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. 1 INTRODUCTION
  4. 2 METHODS: ESTIMATION OF PESTICIDE USE
  5. 3 TRENDS IN PESTICIDE USE
  6. 4 ECONOMIC FACTORS AFFECTING THE USE OF PESTICIDES
  7. 5 COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE APPLICATIONS OF PESTICIDES
  8. 6 PESTICIDE REGULATORY POLICY
  9. 7 SUMMARY
  10. REFERENCES

Effective chemical control of agricultural pests became prevalent in the 1800s.[28] Paris green (copper acetoarsenite) was developed in the United States in the 1870s to combat the potato beetle, and Bordeaux mixture (hydrated lime and copper sulfate) was developed in France in the 1880s to control disease in grape culture. Prior to World War II, arsenicals, sulfur compounds, and oils were commonly used. However, the development of synthetic organic materials, such as 2,4-D and DDT, during World War II heralded the modern age of chemical pesticides.

3.1 Aggregate trends

Synthetic organic pesticide use grew rapidly from the 1960s to the early 1980s as the percentages of crop acreages treated with pesticides increased. By the late 1970s, growth of pesticide use slowed, because high proportions of crop acreages were treated annually. The estimated quantity of synthetic organic pesticide use fluctuated since 1980; use generally declined through the 1980s, increased during the 1990s, declined during the early 2000s, while limited USDA survey information suggests an increase through 2010. Trends since 1980 were heavily influenced by changes in crop acreage, the replacement of older compounds with new ones applied at lower per-acre rates, and, since the mid-1990s, the adoption of genetically engineered insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant seed. USEPA estimated that agricultural pesticide use grew from 366 million pounds active ingredient (a.i.) in 1964 to an all-time high of 843 million pounds in 1979, fell to 666 million pounds in 1987, rose to 767 million pounds in 1997, and declined to 684 million in 2007 (excluding sulfur, petroleum oil, wood preservatives, biocides, and other non-conventional chemicals) (Fig. 1).[19, 20]

The estimates computed for this paper show a similar pattern to the USEPA estimates (see the section ‘A caveat for interpreting pesticide use estimates and trends’ for a discussion of the differences). Use of synthetic organic pesticides on these crops grew from 215 million pounds trends a.i. in 1964 to an all-time high of 572 million pounds in 1982, fell to 471 million pounds in 1991, rose to 558 million pounds in 1997, fell to 480 million pounds in 2002, and rose to 543 million pounds in 2010 (Fig. 2, Table 2). (Due to space limitations, Table 2 shows a subset of the estimates used to create Fig. 2, for specific crops and crop groups.) Major components in that trend were:

  • A rise in herbicide use from 48 million pounds a.i. in 1964 to an all-time high of 430 million pounds a.i. in 1982, a decline to 288 million pounds a.i. in 2002, and an increase to 380 million pounds in 2010.
  • A rise in insecticide use from 123 million pounds a.i. in 1964 to a high of 132 million pounds a.i. in 1976; a dramatic fall to 83 million pounds a.i. in 1982 continuing to 50–60 million pounds in the 1990s; a rise to 75 million by 1999–2000, and a decline to 25 million in 2010.
  • A rise in fungicide use from 22 million pounds a.i. in 1964 to 35 million pounds a.i in 1997, declining to a range of 27–30 million pounds from 2001 to 2010.
  • A rise in use of ‘other pesticides’ from 21 million pounds a.i. in 1964 to almost 120 million pounds a.i. in 2002 (over five times), declining to a range of 101–105 million after 2007.
image

Figure 2. Pesticide use on major crops, 1964–2010.

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Table 2. Estimated quantity of pesticide applied to selected US crops, 1964–2010 (million pounds of active ingredient)
Commodity1964196619711976198219911995200020052010
Herbicides          
Corn25.546.0101.1207.1243.4210.2186.3165.5168.5196.7
Cotton4.66.519.618.320.726.032.528.328.928.8
Soybeans4.210.436.581.1133.269.968.178.685.8109.9
Wheat9.28.211.621.919.513.618.619.921.634.3
Potatoes1.32.22.21.81.62.52.82.31.82.2
Other vegetables2.23.53.45.44.34.76.55.74.54.8
Apples0.30.40.20.60.60.40.80.50.50.4
Citrus0.20.40.54.86.36.14.64.85.13.7
Other fruit0.71.80.60.60.51.72.02.52.12.2
Total48.279.4175.7341.4430.3335.2322.2308.1318.8383.0
Insecticides          
Corn15.723.625.532.030.123.015.010.65.21.8
Cotton78.064.973.464.119.28.229.743.516.57.2
Soybeans5.03.25.67.911.60.40.50.32.72.8
Wheat0.90.91.77.22.90.21.00.70.60.8
Potatoes1.53.02.83.33.83.63.03.11.31.0
Other vegetables8.38.28.35.74.54.55.64.24.04.5
Apples10.88.54.83.63.34.03.52.72.72.2
Citrus1.42.93.04.65.34.02.65.12.13.3
Other fruit1.74.12.63.42.04.96.04.42.42.0
Total123.3119.2127.7131.782.752.866.874.437.425.5
Fungicides          
Corn0.00.00.00.00.10.00.00.00.10.8
Cotton0.20.40.20.00.20.71.00.70.10.1
Soybeans0.00.00.00.20.10.00.00.00.20.5
Wheat0.00.00.00.91.10.10.50.30.30.9
Potatoes3.23.54.14.24.03.27.48.37.06.7
Other vegetables4.54.15.75.16.76.89.18.99.59.2
Apples7.88.57.26.55.74.54.64.25.15.2
Citrus4.94.19.35.94.93.64.02.82.01.5
Other fruit1.62.72.83.92.54.24.96.04.64.6
Total22.223.229.326.625.223.131.631.129.029.5
Other pesticides          
Corn0.10.50.40.50.10.00.00.00.00.0
Cotton12.414.218.712.79.315.519.517.217.117.2
Soybeans0.00.00.12.02.40.00.00.00.00.0
Wheat0.00.00.20.00.00.00.00.00.00.0
Potatoes0.10.06.48.615.226.338.347.842.858.9
Other vegetables5.80.63.45.16.218.039.842.142.725.7
Apples1.01.10.50.60.40.10.10.30.31.0
Citrus1.50.71.30.20.00.00.20.40.40.5
Other fruit0.41.60.61.10.50.31.24.22.61.9
Total21.418.731.730.734.260.199.0111.9105.9105.2
All pesticides          
Corn41.270.1127.0239.5273.7233.2201.3176.1173.8199.2
Cotton95.386.0111.995.249.550.382.689.662.753.2
Soybeans9.213.742.291.1147.470.468.778.988.6113.3
Wheat10.19.213.630.023.513.820.020.822.635.9
Potatoes6.18.715.517.824.635.651.561.552.968.8
Other vegetables20.816.320.721.221.734.061.061.060.744.2
Apples19.918.512.711.310.09.19.07.78.78.7
Citrus8.17.914.115.516.513.711.413.19.58.9
Other fruit4.410.26.69.05.511.114.116.911.710.8
Total215.0240.6364.4530.5572.4471.2519.6525.6491.2543.1

3.2 Herbicides

Herbicide quantity on field, vegetable and fruit crops increased dramatically during the 1960s and 1970s to an all-time high in the early 1980s, generally declined from the 1980s to the early 2000s, and, based on limited survey data, increased to 2010. (Due to its high proportion of total use, herbicide use generally drives the total pesticide use trend.) The quantity applied to corn and soybeans, accounting for the major portion of herbicide use, grew from 30 million pounds a.i. in 1964 (62% of use on the major crops) by a factor of 12 to 377 million pounds a.i. in 1982 (88% of major crop use), fell to 236 million pounds in 2002 (82%), and increased to 307 million in 2010 (80%) (Table 2, Fig. 2). The quantity of cotton and wheat herbicide use generally increased from 1964 until the mid-1990s, declined until 2002, and then increased to an all-time peak in the mid to late 2000s. The quantity of herbicides used on potatoes, vegetables, and fruit generally increased between 1964 and 1995–2000, before declining, but these crops accounted for a small share of herbicide quantity. Factors affecting the use pattern over time include changes in acreage treated, changes in pesticide compounds used, and the introduction of herbicide-tolerant (HT) seed after the mid-1990s.

3.2.1 Effect of acreage treated

Herbicide use increased rapidly in the late 1950s, when growers began adopting herbicides for weed control on major field crops, until stabilizing in the early 1980s, when growers were treating almost all corn, soybean and cotton acres. Approximately 10% of corn and wheat and 5% of cotton acres were treated with herbicides in 1952 (Table 3, Fig. 3, Fig. 4, Fig. 5, Fig. 6). Herbicide use on corn, cotton, and soybeans (no data before 1966) increased until stabilizing at 90–98% of acres planted since 1980. Herbicides were adopted more slowly on wheat, and used on a smaller percentage of winter wheat acreage. Winter wheat herbicide use reached 40–45% of planted acreage in the mid-1980s and varied in the range of 30–60% of planted acreage since (Fig. 6). However, use on durum and other spring wheat is more extensive, varying between 90 and 100% of durum and 80 and 97% of other spring wheat acreage since the mid-1980s. The extent of herbicide use increased on some vegetable and fruit crops. For example, potato acreage treated with herbicides increased from 60% in 1966 to the range of 80 to 94% since 1990 (Table 3). Apple acreage treated increased from 16% in 1966 to 40–65% from 1991–2009.

Table 3. Share of selected crop acres treated with herbicides (%)[5-9, 22-26]
YearCornCottonSoy-beansAll wheatWinter wheatSpring wheatDurum wheatApplesGrapesPeachesOrangesGrapefruitPotatoesFreshProcessed
Head lettuceSweet cornTomatoesStrawberriesSweetcornTomatoes
  1. – Not available.

  2. a

    Crop estimate not available but Fox et al.[22] estimated that 13% of deciduous fruit acres in 1966 and Andrelinas[23] that 19% in 1971 were treated with herbicides.

  3. b

    Crop estimate not available, but Fox et al.[22] estimated that 29% of citrus acres in 1996 and Andrelinas[23] that 22% in 1971 were treated with herbicides.

  4. c

    Crop estimate not available, but Fox et al.[22] estimated that 28% of other vegetable acres in1966, Andrelinas[23] that 40 % in 1971, and Ferguson[26] that 84% in 1979 were treated with herbicides.

195211512
195827720
19665752272816aabb59cccccc
19717982684135aabb51cccccc
197690848838
19799173cccccc
19809392
198295979342
1984959394
198596949544
1986969653388698
198796949562488995
198896959653388394
19899793966139919683
19909595955234899079
199196929749289294427375845191
19929791985233879393687575399290
199398929861439691436493944991
19949894986549949592607952419476
199597979868569496637492976694
19969393976856889891527954379078
199797969861469093607591915488
199896959561479188528157359486
1999989796607591895893
200097959755379597577963399078
2001989096526590855982
20028999603891100688058358467
20039598424764595191
20049761459699387964169270
2005979598435774855292
20069863499395638341228665
20079761
2008
20097160971004449617152
2010989994477133169672
image

Figure 3. Corn: acres treated with pesticides and GE seed.

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image

Figure 4. Cotton: acres treated with pesticides and GE seed.

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image

Figure 5. Soybeans: acres treated with pesticides and GE seed.

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image

Figure 6. Wheat: acres treated with pesticides.

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3.2.2 Changing mix of herbicides used

The changing pattern of use of herbicide compounds from 1964 to 2010 reflects a succession of newer herbicide families (and compounds) replacing older ones. However, one compound, glyphosate, introduced in the 1970s, displaced both older and newer families to dominate use since 2000, but some families used in the 1960s continued to be used extensively (Table 4, Fig. 7, Fig. 8). Phenoxys (30–40%) and triazines (20–30%) accounted for the largest shares of quantity in the 1960s, and are still widely used. (See footnotes for Table 4 for examples of herbicides in each class.)

Table 4. Shares of herbicide use (%)[13, 14, 21] by classa
Herbicide class1964196619711976198219911995200020052010
  1. –, No data available.

  2. a

    Estimated for corn, cotton, potatoes, soybeans, and wheat.

  3. b

    Alachlor, acetochlor, metolachlor, propachlor, flufenacet.

  4. c

    2,4-D, 2,4-DB, MCPA, MCPB.

  5. d

    Atrazine, cyanazine, propazine, simazine, metribuzin, ametryne. Metribuzin was reclassified as a triazinone, but is included in triazines due its small quantity.

  6. e

    Oryzalin, pendimethalin, ethalfluralin, trifluralin.

  7. f

    Butylate, EPTC, pebulate, vernolate, triallate.

  8. g

    Families identified in NASS surveys before 1976, including arsenicals (DMSA, MSMA), benzoics (chloramben, dicamba, naptalam, pyrithiobac-sodium), dinitros (dinoseb, DNBP), phenyl ureas (diuron, linuron, fluometuron, terbacil, diflufenzopyr-sodium).

  9. h

    Glyphosate, glufosinate-ammonium, sulfosate (glyphosate-trimesium). Use is overwhelmingly glyphosate. Also known as phosphorus or organophosphorus herbicides. Some recent classifications separate glyphosate and glufosinate.

  10. i

    Chlorsulfuron, clorimuron, halosulfuron, metsulfuron, nicosulfuron, primisulfuron, thiofensulfuron.

  11. j

    Imazaquin, imazethapyr, imazamox.

  12. k

    Families first reported in 1976 survey or later, including aryloxyphenoxy proprionic acids (clodinafop-propargil, fenaxaprop, quizalofop-P-ethyl), bipyridyls (paraquat), benzothiadiazoles (bentazon), benzoylcyclohexanediones (tembotrione, mesotrione) (aka triketones), benzoylpyrazoles (pyrasulfotole), dicarboximides (flumiclorac-pentyl, flumioxazin), diphenyl ethers (acifluorfen, diclofop, lactofen, oxyfluorfen, lactofen, fomesafen), isoxazoles (isoxaflutole, topramezone), isoxazolidonones (clomazone), nitriles (bromoxynil), oximes (clethodim, sethoxydim, tralkoxydim), pyrazoles (pinoxyden, pyraflufen-ethyl), pyridines (clorpyralid, fluazifop, fluroxypyr, aminopyralid, picloram, pyroxulam), pyridazinones (norfluorazon), triazolone (carfentrazone-ethyl, flucarbazone-sodium, propoxycarbazone-sodium, sulfentrazone, thiencarbazone-methyl), and triazolopyrimidines (cloransulam-methyl, flumetsulam, florasulam).

  13. l

    Sum of acreage treated with a pesticide multiplied by average number of applications per acre.

Quantity          
Amidesb042430313531282217
Phenoxysc4332128447355
Triazinesd23303232262929222216
Anilinese27891112131043
Carbamatesf1095111795200
Other ‘old’g22171998810732
Phosphinicsh000<1124234156
Sulfonyl ureasi0000<1<1<1<1<1<1
Imidizolinonesj00000<1<1<1<1<1
Other ‘new’k0001223422
Acre treatmentsl          
Amides201612111010
Phenoxys131012587
Triazines262418131311
Anilines151310732
Carbamates6211<1<1
Other ‘old’1416161376
Phosphinics124203545
Sulfonyl ureas<191513106
Imidizolinones022411
Other ‘new’6611141313
image

Figure 7. Shares of herbicide quantity, five major crops.

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image

Figure 8. Shares of herbicide acre-treatments, five major crops.

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The triazine share of quantity increased until 1971, accounting for the second largest share in the 1960s and the largest share in the 1970s (over 30%); share then declined slowly to less than 20% in 2010, accounting for the second largest share from the 1980s through early 2000s (20–30%) and for the third largest share in 2010 (Fig. 7). Phenoxy share decreased from 1964 into the early 1990s, but still accounted for 5% in the late 2000s. Carbamates accounted for the third largest share of quantity in various years from the 1960s through 1982, but share declined from 1982 to 2010. Amides and anilines accounted for small shares of quantity in the 1960s, but grew significantly until the early 1990s, before declining, amides by over 50% and anilines by more than 75% from 1991 to 2010. Amides accounted for the largest share of quantity in 1980s and 1990s (over 30%), and generally surpassed triazines through 2010. In terms of acre-treatments, triazines accounted for the largest shares in the 1980s and 1990s, followed by amides, anilines and phenoxys (Fig. 8).

‘New’ families introduced during the 1970s or later accounted for increasing shares of use. They include phosphinic acids (primarily glyphosate), bipyridyls, benzothiadiazoles and pyridines first observed in the 1976 survey; oximes, sulfony ureas, diphenyl ethers, pyridazinones, imidazolinones, aryloxyphenoxy proprionic acids in the 1980s or 1990s; and isoxazoles, pyrazoles, triazolopyrimidines, triazolones, pyradazines and benzoylhexanediones in the 2000s. The ‘new’ families, in total, increased from about 4% of quantity and 7% of acre-treatments in 1982 to 58% of quantity and 65% of acre-treatments in 2010. Herbicide families reported in the 1960s declined from 97% of quantity and 93% of acre-treatments in 1982 to 42% of quantity and 35% of acre-treatments in 2010.

The shares for phosphinic acids, primarily glyphosate, grew dramatically since 1995, accounting for 1% of quantity and acre-treatments in 1982, 4% of quantity and acre-treatments in 1995, but 56% of quantity and 45% of acre-treatments in 2010. By 2000, phosphinic acids had the largest shares of acre-treatments, followed by triazines, sulfonyl ureas, amides, and phenoxys (Fig. 8). Increasing glyphosate use displaced both ‘old’ materials used since the 1960s or 1970s and ‘new’ materials introduced in the 1980s and 1990s. The acre-treatment shares for ‘old’ groups decreased from 49% in 2000 to 35% in 2010, and for ‘new’ groups other than phosphinics, from 32% in 2000 to 20% in 2010. The acre-treatment shares of low-rate herbicides, such as sulfonyl ureas and imidazolinones, increased until the mid to late 1990s, and then declined.

3.2.3 Effect of genetically engineered crops

The rapid, widespread adoption of genetically modified, herbicide-tolerant (HT) crops since the mid-1990s had a major effect on herbicide use trends by encouraging the application of specific herbicides, which might otherwise kill the crop. (Herbicide-tolerant corn, cotton, and soybeans became commercially available in 1996.[29]) The adoption of HT seed has not reduced the percentage of corn, cotton and soybeans acreage treated with herbicides, but had a major impact on the mix of compounds used (Figs 3 to 5). USDA surveys showed that, in 2011, herbicide-tolerant seed was planted on 70% of corn, 75% of cotton, and 94% of soybean acreage, large increases from 3% of corn, 2% of cotton, and 7% of soybean acreage in 1996 (Figs 3 to 5).[27] The increased acreage of herbicide tolerant crops (along with falling glyphosate prices after the patent expired) is a factor in the dramatic increase of glyphosate use in the 1990s and 2000s. Increased use of glyphosate, along with higher corn and soybean acreage since 2002, increased estimated herbicide quantity, because glyphosate displaced lower per-acre rate herbicides, such as sulfonyl ureas and imidazolinones.

3.3 Insecticides

Insecticide quantity on field, fruit, and vegetable crops was much higher in the 1960s and 1970s than in the 2000s; quantity generally declined during the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, with a small increase around 2000 (Table 2, Fig. 2). In fact, insecticide use began declining while herbicide and total pesticide use were still increasing. Cotton and corn accounted for most insecticide quantity, with much variation attributable to cotton. Cotton insecticide quantity fell from 73 million pounds a.i. in 1971 to 64 million pounds in 1976, to 19 million pounds in 1982, and varied between 8 and 30 million pounds until 1998. Cotton insecticide quantity jumped to 43 million pounds in 1999 and 2000, due largely to increased malathion use, declining to less than 10 million pounds in 2010. Corn insecticide quantity increased from 16 million pounds in 1964 to 30 million pounds a.i. in 1982, greater than the increase in total insecticide use during that period. Use on corn then declined to about 21 million pounds a.i. in 1992, to 10 million pounds in 2000, to about 2 million pounds in 2010. Similar to herbicides, factors affecting changing use over time include changes in percentage of acreage treated and changes in pesticide compounds used, but also the introduction of genetically engineered, insect-resistant seed and the boll weevil eradication program.

3.3.1 Effect of acreage treated

In the 1950s, insecticides were widely used on a variety of high-value crops including cotton, many fruits, potatoes and other vegetables (Table 3). Somewhat later, insecticide use on field corn grew rapidly. Insecticides were applied to less than 10% of corn acreage during the mid-1950s, but rose to 35–40% by 1976, to as high as 45% in 1985 (Table 5, Fig. 3). The proportion of cotton treated with insecticides ranged between 40 and 70% from the 1950s through the early 1990s, increasing to over 80% in 1999 and 2000 (Table 5, Fig. 4). Among fruit and vegetables, the acreage treated with insecticides ranged between 75 and 95% for potatoes from the early 1950s through 2010, and exceeded 90% for apples in many years between 1966 and 2010. Since 1990, insecticides were applied to high proportions of lettuce, sweet corn, tomatoes and strawberries, exceeding 85% on fresh market crops and 65% on processing sweet corn and tomatoes in many years.

Table 5. Share of selected crop acres treated with insecticides (%)[5-9, 22-26]
YearCornCottonSoy-beansAll wheatWinter wheatSpring wheatDurum wheatApplesGrapesPeachesOrangesGrapefruitPotatoesFreshProcessed
Head lettuceSweetcornTomatoesStraw berriesSweetcornTomatoes
  1. –, Not available.

  2. a

    Less than 1%.

  3. b

    Individual crop estimates not available, but Eichers and others presented estimates of the % of total fruit and nut acres treated with insecticides: 82% in 1952, 81% in 1958, 87% in 1966, and 90% in 1971.[12]

  4. c

    Crop estimate not available, but Fox et al.[22] estimated that 72% of deciduous fruit acres in 1966 and Andrelinas[23] that 87% in 1971 were treated with insecticides.

  5. d

    Crop estimate not available, but Fox et al.[22] estimated that 97% of citrus acres in 1996 and Andrelinas[23] that 88% in 1971 were treated with insecticides.

  6. e

    Crop estimate not available, but Eichers et al. estimated that 61% of vegetable acres in 1952, 74% in 1958, 58% in 1966 and 1971,[12] and Ferguson[26] that 75% in 1979 were treated with insecticides.

1952148b75eeeeee
195866680eeeeee
196633544292ccdd89eeeeee
197135618791ccdd77eeeeee
19763860714
19794894eeeeee
19804311
19823736123
198442638
1985456575
1986414751213
1987416137773
198835618443189
198932683611aa91
199031547a88
1991316625636996498939692
199229651451a88978495867580
19932865222aa996699909386
199427711711aa831008194886671
19952675245aa986797948985
1996297919123a92988993857471
1997307424512966082889191
1998307124369958692897482
199930842977688848593
20002980234aa928487817364
200129681956091829093
2002246711aa959085858260
20032964944284848384
20044572a898890727153
2005237114924379817679
200616231a988882807271
20076697
2008
200966548750818384
2010125583869276876982

Declines in corn acreage treated since 1985 and cotton acreage treated since 2000 contributed to declining insecticide quantity used. The proportion of corn acreage treated with insecticides declined from 45% in 1985 to 12% in 2010, while the percentage of cotton acreage declined from 80% in 2000 to 55% in 2010.

3.3.2 Changing mix of insecticides used

Much of the decline in insecticide quantity after 1976 reflects changes to new compounds with reduced per-acre application rates, since quantity declined in periods when corn and cotton acreage treated increased. In the 1960s and 1970s, organophosphates and carbamates replaced organochlorines (Table 6, Fig. 9, Fig. 10). (See footnotes to Table 6 for examples of insecticides in the major classes.) Synthetic pyrethroids were rapidly adopted after introduction in the late 1970s and accounted for over 20% or more of insecticide acre-treatments but less than 5% of quantity during 1982 to 2000, increasing to over 40% of acre-treatments and 7% of quantity in 2005 and 2010. Nicotinoids were introduced in the 1990s and accounted for as much as 6% of insecticide acre-treatments in 2005 and 2010, but 1% or less of quantity. Other low-rate insecticides (such as insect growth regulators, pyrazoles, macrocylic lactones, pyridine azomethines; diphenyl oxazolines, oxadiazines, tetronic acids; pyridinecarboximides and tetramics) appeared during the 1990s and 2000s, accounting for 3–7% of acre-treatments, but 1% or less of quantity during 2000–2010.

Table 6. Shares of insecticide use (%),[13, 14, 21] by classa
Insecticide class1964196619711976198219911995200020052010
  1. –, No data available.

  2. a

    Estimated for corn, cotton, potatoes, soybeans, and wheat; excludes oils, sulfur, and other inorganics.

  3. b

    Aldicarb, carbaryl, carbofuran, formetanate, methomyl, oxamyl, and thiodicarb.

  4. c

    Dicofol, endosulfan, methoxychlor, and many materials no longer registered: aldrin, chlordane, deldrin, DDT, and toxaphene.

  5. d

    Acephate, azinphos-methyl, chlorpyrifos, dicrotophos, diazinon, dimethoate, ethoprop, fonofos, malathion, methyl parathion, ethyl parathion, methamidophos, mevinphos, parathion, phorate, phosmet, profenfos, tebupirimiphos, and terbufos.

  6. e

    Permethrin, cypermethrin, tralomethrin, deltamethrin, cyhalothrin, cyfluthrin, tefluthrin, bifenthrin, fenpropathrin, and esfenvalerate.

  7. f

    Imidicloprid, acetamiprid, thiamethoxam, clothianidin, dinotefuran.

  8. g

    Examples include diphenyl oxazolines (etoxazole), macrocyclic lactones (abamectin, emamectin, hexathiazonx, spinosad), insect growth regulators (buprofezin, diflubenzuron, novaluron, pyriproxifen, tebufenozide, methoxyfenozide) oxadiazines (indoxacarb), pyrazoles (fipronil, chlorantraniliprole), pyridine azomethines (pymetrozine) pyridinecarboximides (flonicamid), sulfites (propargite), tetronic acids (spiromesifen), tetramics (spirotetramat).

  9. h

    Sum of acreage treated with a pesticide multiplied by average number of applications per acre.

Quantity          
Carbamatesb74101615111491014
Organochlorinesc7373513192311<1
Organophosphatesd20233949718077877974
Pyrethroidse0000434277
Nicotinoidf000000<1<1<11
Otherg0004043122
Acre treatmentsh          
Carbamatesb141114955
Organochlorinesc5221<1<1
Organophosphatesd605849614539
Pyrethroidse212726214145
Nicotinoidf002166
Otherg028734
image

Figure 9. Shares of insecticide quantity, 1964–2010, five major crops.

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image

Figure 10. Share of insecticide acre-treatments, 1982–2010, five major crops.

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Overall, synthetic pyrethroids and other new insecticide ‘families’ (that first appear in surveys after 1976) accounted for less than 10% of insecticide quantity in 1990s and 2000s, but due to low rates of application, accounted for about 30–35% of insecticide acre-treatments in 1995 and 2000, and 50% or more in 2005 and 2010. However, insecticide families used in the 1960s, organochlorines, organophosphates, and carbamates, still accounted for nearly 90% of insecticide quantity in 2010, and for 65–70% of insecticide acre-treatments in the 1990s, before declining to 50% or less in 2005 and 2010, though specific compounds used changed.

3.3.3 Eradication of boll weevil

The boll weevil eradication program contributed to the increase of cotton and total insecticide quantity during the late 1990s. Due to widespread use for eradication, malathion use increased 26 million pounds a.i. from 1998 to 2000, slightly greater than the increases in cotton and total insecticide use. Malathion accounted for 46% of estimated insecticide quantity and 38% of acre-treatments in 2000, as compared to 15% of quantity in 1998. The organophosphate share increased to 60% of insecticide acre-treatments and 87% of quantity in 2000. When malathion use declined use after 2000, the organophosphates share declined and shares for pyrethroids and other insecticide groups increased.

3.3.4 Effect of genetically engineered crops

The rapid, widespread adoption of genetically engineered seed since the mid-1990s is a major factor in the decline of percentage of corn and cotton acreage treated with synthetic insecticides, as well as the decline of insecticide quantity after 2000. The seed includes a gene that produces the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxin to control Lepidopteran pests, allowing growers to reduce synthetic insecticide use. This technology helps to control European corn borer (since 1996) and corn rootworm (since 2003), major target pests for corn insecticide use, and bollworm, tobacco budworm, and pink bollworm (since 1996), major targets for cotton insecticide use.[30] USDA surveys show that Bt cotton was adopted more rapidly than was Bt corn, but was planted on 73% of cotton and 63% of corn acreage in 2010, when acreage treated with insecticides had declined to 55% of cotton acreage and 12% of corn acreage (Table 5, Fig. 3, Fig. 4).[27]

The introduction of Bt corn, by providing another option for corn rootworm control, may have discouraged use of both insecticides and crop rotation. Before that introduction, both the percentage of corn acreage treated with insecticides and of corn following corn in rotation (corn/corn) declined (that is, corn rotated with other crops increased) from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s (Fig. 11).[31-33] Historically, rotating corn with soybeans or other crops reduced infestations of corn rootworms and other soil insects, so that growers could reduce insecticide use on corn in subsequent years, but during the 1990s there were reports that rotation became less effective in reducing rootworm infestations.[34] From 2001 to 2010, corn following corn increased from 21% of corn acreage to 29% , while the acreage of Bt corn increased and acreage treated with insecticides decreased. So, the effectiveness of Bt corn and the reduced effectiveness of rotation in controlling rootworm, as well as increasing corn prices, acreage, and production from 2000 to 2010, may have discouraged both rotated corn and insecticide use.

image

Figure 11. Corn insect management, 1988–2010: insecticides, Bt seed and rotation.

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3.4 Fungicides

The estimated quantity of fungicides used on the major crops increased about 60% between 1964 and 1997, but from 2000 to 2010, declined to levels about 30% greater than in the 1960s (Table 2, Fig. 2). Fungicide quantities were less than 10% of total pesticide use in most years. Fruits and vegetables, including potatoes, accounted for 92% or more of fungicide quantity over that time period. Most of the increase occurred on potatoes and other vegetables—by more than 2.5 times between 1964 and 1997.

Potato acreage treated with fungicides increased steadily from 24% in 1966 to 85–98% over 1994 to 2010 (Table 7). ERS survey reports estimated that fungicides were applied to about 20% of ‘other vegetable’ acreage in 1966 and 1971, and 37% in 1979 (see footnote c, Table 7). Since the 1990s, high proportions of some vegetable crops, such as head lettuce (63 to 85%) and fresh market tomatoes (76 to 94%) have also been treated.

Table 7. Share of selected crop acres treated with fungicides (excluding seed treatments) (%)[5-9, 22-26]
YearCornCottonSoy-beansAll wheatWinter wheatSpring wheatDurum wheatApplesGrapesPeachesOrangesGrapefruitPotatoesFreshProcessed
Head lettuceSweetcornTomatoesStrawberriesSweetcornTomatoes
  1. –, Not available.

  2. a

    Less than 1%.

  3. b

    Crop estimate not available, but Fox et al.[22] estimated that 58% of deciduous fruit acres in 1966 and Andrelinas[23] that 54% in 1971 were treated with fungicides.

  4. c

    Crop estimate not available, but Fox et al.[22] estimated that 73% of citrus acres in 1966 and Andrelinas[23] that 58% in 1971 were treated with fungicides.

  5. d

    Crop estimate not available, but Fox et al.[22] estimated that 20% of other vegetable acres in1966 and Andrelinas[23] that 18% in 1971 were treated with fungicides, and Ferguson,[26] estimated that 37% of other vegetable acreage was treated in 1979.

  6. e

    Durum and other spring wheat combined.

1966a2aa72bbcc24dddddd
1971142a67bbcc49dddddd
1976183a
197964dddddd
1982a211
198862
198969
19902367
1991a6a333a837589759669
1992a7a324172764186871992
1993a6a223a889385579876
1994a10a21269277369189986
1995a8a213e939086699785
1996a6a11aa89764290861190
1997a7a11aa908791658498
1998a62429a852194911096
1999a7a858185668895
2000a6a5115a543886842273
2001a4a858483489285
2002aa3a6a74288686668
2003a7906876618091
200417220a633689771763
2005a32867780597990
200646215587208189876
2007191
2008
200915736238571786285
20108196862476952482

By the early 1970s, a high proportion of fruit acreage was treated with fungicides, including about 70% of apple acreage, over 60% of citrus acreage, and nearly 60% of ‘other deciduous fruit’ (see footnotes a and b in Table 7). Since the 1990s, proportions of apple (83–90%), citrus (50–75 of orange and 80–90% of grapefruit), and other fruit crop acres (70–93% of grape, 80–98% of peach, and 77–95% of strawberry) treated have remained high and possibly increased for some crops.

3.5 Other pesticides

The estimated quantity of ‘other pesticides’ used on the major crops increased over five times from 21 million pounds in 1964 to 118 million pounds in 2002, before declining to the range of 101–105 million after 2007, exceeding 100 million pounds from 1994 to 2010 (Table 2, Fig. 2). This category includes soil fumigants, desiccants, growth regulators, and harvest aids (excluding sulfuric acid on potatoes). The quantity of ‘other pesticides’ has exceeded that of insecticides since 1990 and fungicides since 1971. Among the crops included, cotton, fruits, and vegetables account for virtually all of the quantity. Tobacco was a major use of ‘other pesticides’ not included in these totals, but the proportional growth in use was not large during surveyed years: 18 million pounds in 1964, 19 million pounds in 1976, and 25 million pounds in 1996.

Potatoes and other vegetables have accounted for most of the increase in the quantity of ‘other pesticides,’ from 6 million pounds in 1964 to 101 million pounds in 2002 (about 17 times), before declining to 85 million pounds in 2010. The proportion of potato acreage treated with such materials increased from 9% in 1966 to 40–70% from 1991 to 2010 (Table 8). Similarly, USDA reports showed 1% of ‘other vegetables’ treated with other pesticides in 1966 and 24% in 1971 (see footnote c in Table 8). By the mid-1990s, over 50% of fresh market tomatoes, nearly 70% of strawberries, and slightly less than 50% of processing tomatoes were treated with other pesticides, primarily fumigants, before declining after 2000. However, only small acreages of some other vegetables, such as lettuce and sweet corn, were treated.

Table 8. Share of selected crop acreage treated with other pesticides (%)[5-9, 22-25]
YearCornCottonSoy-beansAll wheatApplesGrapesPeachesOrangesGrapefruitPotatoesFreshProcessed
Head lettuceSweetcornTomatoesStrawberriesSweetcornTomatoes
  1. –, Not available.

  2. a

    Less than 1%.

  3. b

    Crop estimate not available but Fox et al.[22] estimated that 5% of other deciduous fruit acres in 1966 and Andrelinas[23] that 5% in1971 were treated with other pesticides.

  4. c

    Crop estimate not available, but Fox et al.[22] estimated that 38% of citrus acres in 1966 and Andrelinas[23] that 66% in 1971 were treated with other pesticides.

  5. d

    Crop estimate not available, but Fox et al.[22] estimated that less than 1% of other vegetable acres in1966 and Andrelinas[23] that 24% in 1971 were treated with other pesticides.

1966a26aa28bbcc9dddddd
1971a36aa26bbcc17dddddd
19761341a
197951
1982a301a
198950
1991a58aa57312745
1992a48aa431a3756227
1993a63aa5621314553
1994a66aa60aa5869341
1995a56aa5927413357
1996a60aa561a5672248
1997a73aa5622614465
1998a67aaaa4963430
1999a61a6256198345
2000a61aa1a5157a17
2001a55a6519123461
2002aaa6a5268229
2003a6620898747
2004aa125144a22
2005a72a561510111840
2006aa122753a23
20078565
2008
2009a672326144
2010a8769a42632a19

The quantities of other pesticides applied to apples, citrus, and ‘other deciduous fruit’ are small, generally not exceeding 4 million pounds per year (except from 1997 to 2000 due to larger quantities applied to grapes). However, for some fruit crops, the percentage of bearing acreage treated has been high in some years. Apple acreage treated with other pesticides increased from 28% in 1966 to the range of 55–65% in most years from 1990 to 2009. By the early 1970s, nearly 70% of citrus, but less than 5% of ‘other deciduous fruit’ acreages were treated with ‘other pesticides’ (see footnotes a and b in Table 8). From 1990 to 2009, the acreage of oranges and grapefruit treated was less than 20% , in most years; grapes exceeded 20% in many years, reaching 56% in 1999; and peaches was less than 20% in most, but not all years.

Fumigant use is a major source of increased quantity on potatoes and other vegetables, such as fresh market tomatoes, bell peppers, and strawberries. Soil fumigants are applied at high per-acre rates and have accounted for 50–67% of other pesticide use since 1991. The estimated quantity of fumigants (methyl bromide, 1,3-dichloropropene, chloropicrin and metam-sodium) on the included crops increased from about 6–10 million pounds during the 1964 to 1971 period to nearly 70 million pounds in the late 1990s, but declined to less than 60 million pounds in 2010. Use of fumigants on potatoes (primarily 1,3-dichloropropene and metam-sodium, but metam-potassium since 2005) increased from 25 million pounds a.i. in 1991 to 51 million pounds in 2010, as the acreage treated increased steadily from 11% in 1991 to over 25% in 1999–2001 to 35% in 2010.[7] However, the quantity of methyl bromide on vegetables and strawberries declined since 1994 due to the phase-out under the Montreal Protocol and the Clean Air Act.[35]

The use of growth regulators, desiccants and harvest aids on cotton and other crops accounts for most of the acreage treated with ‘other pesticides.’ The quantity used on cotton increased only 50% from 12 million pounds in 1964 to 19 million pounds in 1994, varying between 13 and 22 million pounds after that date. The cotton acreage treated increased from 26% in 1966, to over 60% in the late 1990s, to over 85% in 2007 and 2010 (Table 8). The effect of increased percentage of acreage treated on quantity has been offset by changes from older materials, such as arsenic acid, sodium chlorate, and tribufos, to newer ones applied at lower per-acre rates, such as ethephon, mepiquat chloride and pentaborate, thidiazuron and paraquat.

4 ECONOMIC FACTORS AFFECTING THE USE OF PESTICIDES

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. 1 INTRODUCTION
  4. 2 METHODS: ESTIMATION OF PESTICIDE USE
  5. 3 TRENDS IN PESTICIDE USE
  6. 4 ECONOMIC FACTORS AFFECTING THE USE OF PESTICIDES
  7. 5 COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE APPLICATIONS OF PESTICIDES
  8. 6 PESTICIDE REGULATORY POLICY
  9. 7 SUMMARY
  10. REFERENCES

Various economic factors affect farmers' choices of pest control practices (pesticides and other practices) and how intensively to use them. According to economic efficiency criteria, producers should choose the combination of pest control practices that maximizes the difference between the value of pest damage reductions and control costs. They should increase the use of pest control inputs until the marginal value of damage reduction (the value of the last unit used) equals the marginal cost. As a result, the prices of crops, pesticides and other practices should influence the use of pesticides and other pest control practices. Fruits and vegetables for fresh markets often bring higher prices than for processing markets, and market driven quality standards can encourage pesticide use to prevent rots, surface blemishes, or other quality defects to increase returns.

Financial risk (variability of returns) and uncertainty (incomplete information about outcomes) also influence pest control decisions. Risk results from variations in yields and returns affected by changes in market conditions and natural variations in weather, pest infestations, and other factors affecting output. Uncertainty, which can increase perceived risk, results from imperfect or no information. Farmers do not know the precise value of pest damage without control or the reductions in damage from using control practices, but base decisions on expectations of crop value and potential yield or quality savings from control, which could be perceived as ranges of potential outcomes, with or without subjective probabilities for those outcomes. Rational decisions under risk or uncertainty could differ from profit-maximizing decisions for known pest infestations and crop values. Because reducing the risk of large financial losses is important to many producers, some might rationally apply pesticides or other inputs in excess of profit-maximizing levels. Uncertainty about pest damage can be reduced by information about pest infestation levels from scouting or monitoring; models predicting yield losses from pests, weather, and other factors; and information about the effectiveness of pest control practices.

4.1 Cost efficiency of pesticides

One argument for the increase in synthetic pesticide use from the end of World War II through 1980 is that pesticides often cost less and contributed to higher, less variable yields than previously used methods. Fernandez-Cornejo and co-workers[36] reviewed pesticide productivity studies and found that many, but not all, showed pesticides to be cost-efficient inputs from the farmer's perspective, because marginal return to pesticide use exceeded cost. Some more recent studies indicate overuse of pesticides.[37] Model specification can affect productivity estimates; for example, conventional Cobb–Douglas specification may overstate productivity estimates.[38] Currently, economists argue that productivity estimation should account for factors influencing pest damage and the effect of pesticides on pest damage.

Relative price trends may have influenced the cost-effectiveness of pesticides and the amount used. Overall, the NASS pesticide price index fell relative to the NASS wage and fuel indices from 1965 to 2011, while it increased relative to the crop price index in some years and decreased in others, with essentially the same ratio between pesticide and crop price indices in 1965 and 2010 (Fig. 12).[39] The pesticide price index fell relative to wage, fuel and crop indices from the late 1960s to about 1980, a period of rapid growth in pesticide use. Price trends during that period would have reduced the costs of pesticides relative to other pest control practices and encouraged substitution of pesticides for labor, fuel and machinery use in pest control. The increase in crop prices relative to pesticide prices would have increased the returns to pesticides and encouraged greater use. The pesticide price index rose relative to fuel and crop indices from 1980 until the late 1990s, and relative to the wage index during the mid-1980s, before falling again. Increasing relative pesticide prices during this time period may have reflected high demand for pesticide use in crop production and contributed to use stabilizing since 1980. Since the late 1990s, the pesticide price index declined relative to crop, wage and fuel indices, reinforced by large increases in crop and fuel prices, thus reverting to the longer term trend, encouraging substitution of pesticides for labor, fuel and machinery used in pest control and more pesticide use to protect higher crop values.

image

Figure 12. Relative prices, 1965–2011: pesticides to crops, fuels and wages.

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4.2 Effects of farm and energy policy

Many economists argue that commodity programs encouraged more pesticide use than would have been optimal under free markets.[37] The combination of target prices, loan rates, acreage restrictions, and inflexible base acreages historically in U.S. commodity programs may have increased returns and reduced financial risk for program crops. As a result, they may have encouraged greater per-acre use of pesticides (and other yield-increasing inputs), more program crop acreage, and, thus, more pesticide use. However, acreage restrictions reduce total pesticide use in comparison to previous years.

Pesticide use grew rapidly during the 1960s when farm programs restricted crop acreage. From the mid-1970s to the early 1980s, when pesticide use grew to market saturation, acreage restrictions were relaxed, export demand for U.S. commodities was high, and crop prices and acres increased. During the 1980s, low crop prices, acreage diversion, and land retirement contributed to reductions in pesticide use.

4.2.1 Changing farm policy

Farm legislation in 1977, 1985, 1990 and 1996 steadily decreased incentives for pesticides or other yield-enhancing inputs, continuing with 2002 and 2008 legislation. These changes steadily reduced restrictions on planting decisions and the relation between current production and program payments. Since 1996, programs permit producers to plant 100% of total base acreage plus additional acreage to any crop (with some exceptions for fruits and vegetables) without loss of Federal subsidy. However, greater planting flexibility could lead to increased pesticide use when idled land returns to production.

Changes in diverted and CRP acreage may have affected crop acreage and, thus, pesticide use. Crop acreage restrictions decreased during the early 1990s and have been relatively stable since then. Acreage diversion programs, such as payment-in-kind, acreage reduction, and paid land diversion, were terminated by 1996 legislation, but 1985 legislation created the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Total acreage in diversion programs during the 1980s and 1990s and CRP since 1985 declined from 77 million in 1988 to 55 million in 1995; CRP acreage increased from 34 million acres in 1996 to 37 million in 2007 and declined to 31 million in 2010.[40] Declines in diverted acreage may have contributed to increased pesticide quantity in the early 1990s, but the effects of changing CRP acreage since 1996 are unclear; reduced CRP acreage since 2007 might have encouraged pesticide use.

4.2.2 Federal crop insurance

Since the 1996 Farm Bill eliminated price-sensitive deficiency payments and acreage diversion programs, crop insurance has had a larger role in agricultural risk management and could influence crop acreage, per-acre input use, and aggregate pesticide use. The multiple-peril Federal Crop Insurance Program (FCI), administered by USDA's Risk Management Agency, has yield and revenue policies, with premiums subsidized 38–67% to encourage participation.[41] FCI covers more than 80% of major field crop acreage (ERS, USDA (http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/farm-practices-management/risk-management/government-programs-risk.aspx). The Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program provides catastrophic coverage for crops and locations not covered by FCI for a nominal fee.

Some economists have argued, since the 1970s, that crop insurance could discourage use of pesticides as risk-reducing inputs, but empirical evidence is mixed.[42-45] Some studies show that crop insurance increased pesticide use;[46] others show decreased use;[47] while even others show a small effect.[45, 48-50] An important issue was whether pesticides were risk-increasing or risk-reducing (as measured by effect on income variance), or whether pesticides reduced the probabilities of indemnities as both average and variance of yields or revenues increased. However, Wu[49] and Claassen et al.[51] found that crop insurance participation encouraged producers to grow higher value crops, encouraging more pesticide use. Subsidized premiums could encourage more high-value crop acreage and pesticide use than would ‘actuarially sound’ premiums.

4.2.3 Energy policy: biofuels

Recent energy policy indirectly affected pesticide use by encouraging farmers to grow more corn for ethanol production. First, there were mandates for increased domestic use of renewable fuels in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (7.5 billion gallons by 2012) and the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 (36 billion gallons by 2022).[52] Second, use of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) as an oxygenate in gasoline declined, because the 2005 Act terminated the requirement for oxygenates and did not provide liability protection for MTBE as a carcinogenic groundwater pollutant. Third, tax credits for ethanol producers and tariffs on ethanol imports encouraged domestic ethanol production. (Tax credits expired in January 2012, but were renewed in January 2013.) Higher fuel prices and corn-based ethanol demand since 2003 increased corn prices, acreage and production, which in turn increased corn pesticide use.

Similarly, tax credits and mandates for biodiesel production encouraged production of soybeans, the primary raw material (ERS, USDA (http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/crops/soybeans-oil-crops/policy.aspx#Bio_Policy), but the effect on soybean production and pesticide use is less dramatic than effects of ethanol policy on corn. EISA included biodiesel mandates of 500 million gallons by 2009 and 1 billion gallons by 2012, pending USEPA rule-making. A legislatively created $1 per gallon tax credit for biodiesel produced and used in the United States went into effect in 2005. (It expired on 31 December 2011, but was renewed in January 2013.)

4.3 Mobile pests

Mobile pests may create externalities, which are costs and damages not considered by the grower because another grower bears some impact from the decision. The more mobile a pest species, the greater the externalities can be. Mobile pests can spread across the landscape or re-infest a treated area from an untreated area. For a group of farmers, the most effective strategy might be for all to treat. However, a single farmer might under-estimate potential pest damage (and benefits from control), because some of it occurs elsewhere or in the future, and decide not to treat or to treat less than is desirable. Recently, economists have developed decision models for exotic pests or invasive species that consider pest population dynamics and mobility, risk and uncertainty, and externalities associated with exclusion, monitoring and management strategies.[53] Accounting for pest mobility could encourage greater pesticide use to prevent or slow the spread of pests and damages to new locations. Large area control programs can coordinate grower actions and more effectively control mobile and damaging pests. They may also create economies of scale for monitoring or controlling pests. Government pest eradication programs, for such pests as the boll weevil, might require and/or subsidize grower participation to improve program effectiveness and prevent non-participating growers from benefiting.[54]

Mobile pests can also spread resistance to pesticides and reduce their effectiveness. While not a new issue, resistance has regained attention due to concerns about insect resistance to Bt crops and weed resistance to glyphosate. Sexton et al.[37] say that markets might fail to protect pest susceptibility without government intervention. Farmers trade off resistance, which increases with pesticide use, and pest population growth, which decreases with use. Growers who do not consider the long-term effects of pesticide use might increase pesticide use to increase control. For the group, the most effective strategy might be to manage resistance by reducing application rates, eliminating treatments, rotating use of pesticides with different modes of action, using non-chemical practices, and/or maintaining refugia of susceptible pest populations. Such approaches might require government regulations, such as EPA requirements for non-Bt refuges when planting Bt crops, or large area programs.

5 COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE APPLICATIONS OF PESTICIDES

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. 1 INTRODUCTION
  4. 2 METHODS: ESTIMATION OF PESTICIDE USE
  5. 3 TRENDS IN PESTICIDE USE
  6. 4 ECONOMIC FACTORS AFFECTING THE USE OF PESTICIDES
  7. 5 COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE APPLICATIONS OF PESTICIDES
  8. 6 PESTICIDE REGULATORY POLICY
  9. 7 SUMMARY
  10. REFERENCES

Despite the apparent contribution to production efficiency, increased pesticide use is not a panacea for all pest problems. Scheduled or prophylactic treatments when pest infestations are low may have little effect on yield, and the value of damage reduction might not exceed cost. Some applications destroy beneficial organisms and natural enemies to pests. As a result, secondary outbreaks could require additional treatments, while species that were adequately controlled by natural enemies become pests. Continued exposure of pest populations to a pesticide often leaves the most resistant individuals, which reduces the pesticide's effectiveness, creates the potential for pest outbreaks, and encourages further counter-productive pesticide use. Continuous plantings of some crops can encourage the growth of pest populations and greater use of pesticides than would rotating several crops. A monoculture of genetically uniform, high-yielding varieties and high use of pesticides without regard for beneficial species or pest resistance can create the potential for damaging pest outbreaks. As a result, reducing pesticide use could lower pest damage and control costs in some circumstances. Stern and others discussed the economic threshold and integrated control concepts as ways to address the problems of counter-productive pesticide applications.[55] These concepts have had a significant influence on the science and economics of pest management.

5.1 Economic thresholds

The economic threshold concept is based on the notion that pests should be controlled only when the value of damage reduction exceeds the cost of control.[55-57] Treatments are economically justified when infestations exceed the threshold or pest population level where damage reduction equals control cost. If thresholds eliminate uneconomic applications they can reduce pesticide use and various adverse health, safety and environmental effects.

According to economic theory, thresholds and pesticide application rates will respond to economic factors. Higher crop prices or lower control costs increase optimal rates or lower thresholds. With some exceptions, economists generally argue that risk and uncertainty encourage more pesticide use through higher rates or lower thresholds.[58-61] Economists also examined the impacts of population dynamics on economic thresholds with optimal control models.[62, 63] However, rapid growth rates and mobile pest externalities, as discussed in the section ‘Mobile pests’, could justify treatment of small infestations to prevent damages at other locations and in the future, even if current control costs exceed current damage reductions.[53]

Pest monitoring information and damage projections, which incur costs, are needed to implement thresholds. Sexton and co-workers[37] said that farmers choose between responsive applications (based on monitoring and thresholds) and preventative applications, by comparing monitoring costs to pesticide cost savings and choosing the type that offers higher expected profits. So, if pesticide cost savings are high and/or monitoring cost is low, a responsive approach is more likely to be profitable, but the opposite is more likely if pesticides are cheap or monitoring costs are high. Improved monitoring information about pest damage can reduce uncertainty and thus reduce dosages or increase thresholds.[64]

5.2 Integrated pest management

Integrated pest management (IPM) was originally developed as an approach to control pests more cost-effectively over time and can reduce counter-productive pesticide applications. Stern and others originally defined integrated control as ‘applied pest control which combines and integrates biological and chemical control.’[55] IPM focuses on optimizing the use of chemical, biological and cultural controls, including varietal resistance to pests, trap crops, augmentation of natural enemies, and crop rotation, to manage pest problems rather than relying solely on chemical use, and often include pest monitoring and economic thresholds.[65] Organic farming systems incorporate various pest management techniques, and growers certified under national standards must avoid use of most synthetic organic pesticides.[66]

More recently, IPM became a policy tool to reduce the use and risks of pesticides. In the late 1980s, some interest groups argued that some pesticides were over-used and sought to restrict or reduce the total amount of pesticides used. They said that more efficient application technology, non-chemical practices, pest monitoring and economic thresholds, or crop rotations could reduce pesticide use and adverse environmental and health effects with relatively small economic losses.[67] Some European countries, including Denmark and Sweden, instituted programs to reduce pesticide use by 50%.[68] During the 1990s, some groups argued that the practice of IPM was overly reliant on pesticides to control pests, when it should promote reduced use.[69] The concepts of bio-intensive and ecologically based IPM were developed to reduce use of synthetic organic pesticides and increase emphasis on reduced-risk pesticides.[70, 71]

The United States, in the 1990s, instituted a policy of implementing IPM to reduce pesticide health and environmental risks, but never adopted a goal of reducing pesticide use by a specific percentage. In 1993, the Clinton Administration set a goal for 75% of farms to use IPM techniques that reduce pesticide use by 2000; in 1994, USDA and EPA signed a Memorandum of Understanding for an IPM Initiative, while the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 required USDA and EPA to conduct research and education programs to support IPM adoption. In 2001, the General Accounting Office (now the Government Accountability Office) criticized USDA IPM programs for not reducing pesticide use, saying that the programs should promote biologically based practices that reduce use.[72] Since 2001, EPA, USDA and the Land Grant Universities collaborated in promoting IPM, including support for four regional IPM centers.

6 PESTICIDE REGULATORY POLICY

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. 1 INTRODUCTION
  4. 2 METHODS: ESTIMATION OF PESTICIDE USE
  5. 3 TRENDS IN PESTICIDE USE
  6. 4 ECONOMIC FACTORS AFFECTING THE USE OF PESTICIDES
  7. 5 COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE APPLICATIONS OF PESTICIDES
  8. 6 PESTICIDE REGULATORY POLICY
  9. 7 SUMMARY
  10. REFERENCES

Pesticide use has grown within the context of regulatory law and policy, shaped by changing public attitudes and political pressure. Since the 1960s, there have been major public reactions to alleged health and environmental hazards of pesticide use, including farm worker safety, cancer risks, birth defects, wildlife mortality, water quality, endangered species, and food safety. Over time, regulatory policy changed from balancing risks and benefits to meeting risk standards.

The regulatory process defines what pesticides and use practices are legal, and indirectly influences aggregate quantities used. Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), USEPA decides whether or not to register new uses of previously registered or unregistered pesticides, modify existing registrations, and cancel some or all registered uses of pesticides on the market (see also Note d, after the References). Such laws as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Plant Protection Act can also affect pesticide use.

Regulatory policy recognizes a role for pesticides in crop production, but emphasizes protection from hazards of use. USEPA's approach is to test and assess hazards before registering new pesticide uses; re-evaluate registered pesticides against health and safety standards, routinely and in response to specific concerns; and mitigate risks by modifying use rates and practices, canceling uses not meeting safety standards, and registering ‘reduced-risk’ pesticides.[37]

Regulatory requirements affect the innovation of pesticide products and market structure. Sexton et al.[37] argue that high costs of testing and introducing new pesticides impedes innovation and encourages market concentration. Ollinger and Fernandez-Cornejo said that regulation encourages the development of less toxic pesticides, discourages new registrations, encourages firms to abandon registrations for minor crops, and favors large firms over smaller ones.[73] Important effects were the development of low-application rate pesticides and genetically engineered crops.

6.1 A review of changing policy

From the early 1900s, before pesticide use was widespread, until the 1960s, when pesticide use grew rapidly, U.S. legislation encouraged adoption of the new technology by regulating product effectiveness, labeling contents, and warning users about acutely toxic ingredients.[74, 75] Table 9 lists a summary of important pesticide legislation. Concerns about the presence and safety of chemical residues in food emerged in the 1950s, which resulted in FFDCA amendments in 1954 and 1958 requiring pesticide residue tolerances for raw food and feed commodities and processed products. The 1958 amendment included the Delaney Clause prohibiting food additives found to induce cancer in humans or animals.

Table 9. Important pesticide legislation in the USA
LegislationPurpose
The Insecticide Act of 1910Prohibited the manufacture, sale, or transport of adulterated or misbranded pesticides; protected farmers and ranchers from marketing of ineffective products.
Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938 (FFDCA)Provided that safe tolerances be set for residues of unavoidable poisonous substances, such as pesticides, in food.
Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act of 1947 (FIFRA)Required pesticides to be registered before sale and the product label to specify content and whether the substance was poisonous.
Miller Amendment to FFDCA of 1954Amended the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) to require that tolerances for pesticide residues be established (or exempted) for food and feed (Section 408). Allowed consideration of risks and benefits.
Food Additives Amendment to FFDCA of 1958Amended FFDCA to give authority to regulate food additives against a general safety standard that does not consider benefits (Section 409); included the Delaney Clause which prohibited food additives found to induce cancer in humans or animals. Pesticide residues in processed foods were classified as food additives, while residues on raw commodities were not. When residues of a pesticide applied to a raw commodity appeared in a processed product, the residues in processed foods were not to be regulated as food additives if levels were no higher than sanctioned on the raw commodity.
FIFRA Amendments of 1964Increased authority to remove pesticide products from the market for safety reasons by authorizing denial or cancellation of registration and the immediate suspension of a registration, if necessary, to prevent an imminent hazard to the public.
Federal Environmental Pest Control Act (FEPCA) of 1972Amended FIFRA to significantly increase authority to regulate pesticides. Allowed registration of a pesticide only if it did not cause “unreasonable adverse effects” to human health or the environment; required an examination of the safety of all previously registered pesticide products within 4 years using new health and environmental protection criteria. Materials with risks that exceeded those criteria were subject to cancellation of registration. Specifically included consideration of risks and benefits in these decisions.
FIFRA amendment of 1975Required consideration of the effects of registration cancellation or suspension on the production and prices of relevant agricultural commodities.
Federal Pesticide Act of 1978Identified review of previously registered pesticides as reregistration; eliminated the deadline for reregistration but required an expeditious process.
FIFRA amendments of 1988Accelerated the reregistration process by requiring that all pesticides containing active ingredients registered before November 1, 1984, be reregistered by 1995; provided EPA with additional financial resources through reregistration and annual maintenance fees levied on pesticide registrations.
The Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 (FQPA)Amended FIFRA and FDCA to set a consistent safety standard for risks from pesticide residues in foods: “ensure that there is a reasonable certainty that no harm will result to infants and children from aggregate exposure.” Pesticide residues are no longer subject to the Delaney Clause of FDCA; both fresh and processed foods may contain residues of pesticides classified as carcinogens at tolerance levels determined to be safe. EPA was required to reassess existing tolerances of pesticides within 10 years, with priority to pesticides that may pose the greatest risk to public health. Benefits no longer have a role in setting new tolerances, but may have a limited role in decisions concerning existing tolerances. Included special provisions to encourage registration of minor use and public health pesticides.
The Pesticide Registration Improvement Act of 2003Amended FIFRA to provide for the enhanced review of covered pesticide products; authorize service fees for registration actions in the Antimicrobials, Biopesticides and Pollution Prevention, and Registration Divisions of EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs; required that pesticide reregistration eligibility decisions for pesticides undergoing tolerance reassessment be completed by the FQPA tolerance assessment deadlines; and set a deadline of October 3, 2008 to complete reregistration of other pre-1984 pesticides.

Public concerns about environmental hazards of pesticides emerged in the 1960s, when use was growing rapidly. FIFRA amendments in the 1960s and 1970s focused the regulatory process on protection from health and environmental hazards, but created a role for balancing risks and benefits in regulatory decisions. The result was a series of formal reviews on the risks and benefits of pesticides.

Re-registration became a major focus in the 1980s and 1990s. The review of previously registered pesticides was identified as re-registration in the 1978 amendments; 1988 amendments sped the process and provided additional financial resources through fees. During re-registration, USEPA identified many pesticide risk issues, and in many cases, registrants voluntarily changed labels or canceled uses to meet safety standards and avoid costly formal reviews. The regulatory process emphasized risk assessment data and procedures, reducing the role of formal risk and benefit comparisons. The focus on reviewing registered pesticides continued with the FQPA-required residue tolerance reassessment from 1997 to 2006 and, initiated in 2006, another re-registration review of each active ingredient every 15 years.

6.2 Food Quality Protection Act of 1996

Two important issues led to the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 (FQPA), which amended FIFRA and FFDCA: (1) public concerns about pesticide residues in food, especially food consumed by children, and (2) enforcement of the Delaney Clause. In 1993, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) highlighted the unique sensitivity of children and suggested changes to USEPA's risk assessment process.[76] In 1987, NAS described the regulatory confusion created by the ‘Delaney Paradox’ where a no carcinogenic-risk rule applied to residue tolerances for pesticides that concentrate in processed food and a benefit–risk rule applied to those that did not.[77] Under its interpretation, USEPA revoked or denied the tolerance for a raw commodity if a tolerance for a processed product was revoked or denied under the Delaney Clause, leading to cancellation of the pesticide's registration for that crop. NAS argued that rigorous application of the Delaney Clause would restrict USEPA's flexibility to reduce dietary cancer risks by preventing registration of pesticides with slight cancer risks that displace more hazardous materials, and focus regulatory activity on negligible dietary risks instead of more significant health risks. USEPA attempted to apply a negligible risk rule to the Delaney Clause, which the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court rejected in 1992. USEPA subsequently wrote rules to revoke tolerances under the Delaney Clause, creating strong incentives for agricultural interests to seek a Delaney Paradox resolution.

6.2.1 The Food Quality Protection Act and new safety standards

The FQPA resolved the Delaney Paradox, created new dietary risk standards, required a reassessment of residue tolerances, and effectively eliminated the consideration of economic benefits for dietary risk decisions. Pesticides were no longer subject to the Delaney Clause, but to a new, uniform safety standard for pesticide risks in raw and processed foods: ‘a reasonable certainty of no harm from aggregate exposure to the pesticide chemical residue.’ For carcinogens treated as non-threshold effects, this standard means negligible risk, instead of no risk, for both raw and processed foods. For threshold effects, the standard is satisfied if exposure is lower by an ample margin of safety than the no-effect level.

In setting pesticide tolerances, FQPA required USEPA to consider dietary exposures from all food uses and drinking water, as well as non-occupational exposure, such as home-owner use of a pesticide for lawn care; increased susceptibility of infants and children or other sensitive sub-populations; and the cumulative effects from other substances with a ‘common mechanism of toxicity’ (a common toxic effect to human health by the same, or essentially the same, sequence of major biochemical events). FQPA directed USEPA to use an additional 10-fold margin of safety in setting residue tolerances in some cases to protect infants and children.

FQPA required a review of pesticide residue tolerances against this new standard by 2006, giving priority to pesticides that may pose the greatest risk to public health, with 33% reviewed by 1999, 66% by 2002, and the remainder by 2006. If a pesticide's risk exceeded the standard, FQPA required residue limit reductions or tolerance revocations to meet the standard. If a common mechanism of toxicity was identified for a group of pesticides, the acceptable risk for one pesticide could be reduced by risks from other pesticides.

6.2.2 The Food Quality Protection Act and the reassessment of tolerances

In 1997, USEPA identified organophosphates, carbamates, organochlorines, and probable or possible carcinogens as the highest priorities for tolerance reassessment.[78] USEPA coordinated the tolerance reassessment with the ongoing re-registration process, reviewed existing tolerances of a pesticide when a new use was proposed, and revoked tolerances of canceled pesticide uses. Ecosystem and worker safety risks were examined along with dietary, drinking water, and non-occupational exposure risks. USEPA conducted cumulative risk assessments of organophosphate insecticides, carbamate insecticides, triazine herbicides, and chloracetanilide herbicides, highest priority pesticides determined to have common mechanisms of toxicity. (USEPA conducted a fifth cumulative risk assessment, of lower-priority synthetic pyrethroids and pyrethrins, during 2010–2012.) USEPA completed the tolerance review in September 2007 and re-registration eligibility decisions for pesticides registered before 1984 in 2008 [USEPA (http://www.epa.gov/oppsrrd1/tolerance/reassessment.htm)]. USEPA reviewed 9721 tolerances, confirming the safety of about 54% (5237) and recommending the revocation of about 33% (3200) and modification of 12% (1200).

One result of the tolerance reassessment was cancellation of some registered uses, which may have reduced the number of pest control alternatives. For organophosphates, of approximately 1700 residue tolerances in 1997, more than 700 were revoked and 150 lowered; of 49 active ingredients registered, 18 were voluntarily cancelled or phased out. Van Steenwyk and Zalom identified potential adverse pest control effects: changes in IPM programs using organophosphate insecticides based on monitoring and treatment thresholds, reduced ability to manage pest resistance to pesticides, and potential pesticide use increases if alternatives were less effective.[79] Replacements were other synthetic pesticides; natural and biological toxins, including genetically engineered crops; pheromone mating disruption and other semiochemical approaches; biological and cultural measures; and organic production. Van Steenwyk and Zalom[79] stated that FQPA might encourage development of new pesticides meeting health and environmental standards and mitigate the loss of pest control alternatives.

The tolerance assessment and re-registration process may have influenced the mix of pesticides used. The high priority and cumulative risk assessments of organophosphates and carbamates might have contributed to declines in their shares of insecticide use from 2000 to 2010, and increases of pyrethroid and nicotinoid shares (Fig. 9, Fig. 10, Table 6).[79] In addition, the tolerance and cumulative risk assessments of triazines and chloracetanilides (included in amides) might have influenced the decline in their shares of herbicide use from 1995 to 2010 (Table 4, Fig. 7, Fig. 8). However, increased glyphosate use was another major factor, since it reduced the shares of most other major herbicide families after 2000, as well.

The economic effects of FQPA are unclear. There appear to be no ex-post analyses of the overall economic impact of FQPA or regulatory actions resulting from the tolerance reassessment, but there were ex-ante analyses of potential actions. For example, Metcalfe et al. estimated a $203 million producer and consumer loss if organophosphate use on 13 California crops was banned.[80] It is very difficult to anticipate the entire combination of regulatory actions prior to the decisions, and while many registered organophosphate uses were canceled and tolerances revoked, a total ban never occurred.

6.3 Plant Protection Act

Genetically engineered crops, which may influence pesticide use, are approved under the Plant Protection Act (PPA), as well as FIFRA and FFDCA in some cases. USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has authority to regulate movement, import and field testing of genetically engineered crops as potential plant pests. If unconfined release does not pose a significant risk to agriculture or the environment, APHIS can de-regulate the crop, allowing commercialization. In addition, USEPA registers plant incorporated pesticides, such as Bt crops, under FIFRA. USEPA does not regulate genetically engineered herbicide tolerance, but does regulate the herbicides. FDA regulates safety for food and feed use under FFDCA.

According to the National Academy of Sciences, many adopters of GE crops have higher yields and/or lower production costs due to more cost-effective weed control or reduced insect losses, resulting in less tillage and insecticide use.[81] However, some potential environmental problems include Bt-resistant insects, managed by USEPA requirements to plant portions of Bt fields with non-Bt seed; glyphosate-resistant weeds, subject to development of resistance management strategies; or possible transfer of GE traits (gene flow) to other plants. Gene flow raises the possibility of weeds receiving a herbicide-tolerant gene, or contaminating crops, rendering them unsuitable for markets that limit or prohibit GE traits, such as organic crops. Consumer concerns about the safety of food produced from GE crops, despite regulatory approval, and European government import restrictions limited markets for some GE crops. In 2004, such concerns may have led to the withdrawal of an application for genetically engineered wheat in the United States.[30]

6.4 Risk management implications

The current pesticide regulatory approach is to reduce risks until standards are met (risk-only approach), using economic information and analysis to identify cost-reducing regulatory choices that meet standards, rather than setting standards through benefit–risk comparisons.[82] A risk-only approach can limit flexibility to address trade-offs between different types of risks and between risks and economic benefits, as compared to risk–benefit comparisons. Similar to the Delaney Paradox, a risk-only approach could prevent decisions that bring about large decreases in some risks while allowing small increases in other risks that might exceed standards, resulting in higher costs of reducing risks or smaller risk reductions for the same cost.

Within the context of benefit–cost analysis, the use of a pesticide would be regulated so that the marginal benefit of the regulation (costs avoided by reducing risks) equals marginal cost (lost economic benefits).[83, 84] According to Breyer, if the marginal cost of risk reduction (the cost of preventing the last unit of adverse effect, such as saving a statistical life) is greater for some regulations than others, risks could be reduced more cost-effectively by making regulations with higher marginal cost less stringent and/or those with lower marginal cost more stringent.[85]

The FQPA increased regulatory flexibility, on the one hand, by resolving the Delaney Paradox, but reduced flexibility, on the other, by imposing risk standards in place of risk–benefit comparisons. The FQPA standard did not entirely eliminate the problem that Breyer described, because USEPA cannot consider benefits of use when setting new residue tolerances for raw or processed foods, except in special cases. The FQPA standard is similar to what Harper and Zilberman call a safety-fixed rule.[84] Such rules allow an ‘efficient allocation of regulatory restrictions affecting a single chemical,’ but do they not ‘address directly the trade-offs between aggregate economic benefits and environmental risks …, nor do they assure an efficient allocation of social resources among regulations affecting different chemicals.’ As a result, the marginal cost per life saved or illness prevented by tolerance decisions could vary from pesticide to pesticide, depending upon the relative cost-effectiveness of alternatives. If the marginal costs of tolerance regulations were higher than the marginal costs of other regulations, the only way to equate marginal costs would be to make the other regulations stricter.

The FQPA rules limit USEPA's ability to consider the impacts of a decision on the availability of alternative pest control practices and on other pesticide risks. While the FQPA requirement to address the highest risk pesticides earlier in the tolerance review process meant that decisions should not increase dietary risk, the effects on other risks are unclear. Conceivably, the tolerance reassessment could have forced growers to use alternatives that increase risks to workers or wildlife, which in turn cause more regulatory actions, or forced growers to use greater quantities of less-effective pesticides.[79] However, USEPA assessed worker safety and ecosystem risks in conjunction with the tolerance reassessment, which could have prevented tolerance decisions from increasing other pesticide risks.

While the FQPA might limit regulatory flexibility and not minimize risk reduction costs, it might be consistent with the policy preferences held by much of the public. This preference may reflect the fear of unknown pesticide residues on food and the involuntary nature of such risks, even if scientists view them as insignificant.[86] In addition, the FQPA's special risk assessment provisions and additional safety margin for children imply a willingness to incur higher marginal costs for protecting them from the dietary risks of pesticides than for adults.

7 SUMMARY

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. 1 INTRODUCTION
  4. 2 METHODS: ESTIMATION OF PESTICIDE USE
  5. 3 TRENDS IN PESTICIDE USE
  6. 4 ECONOMIC FACTORS AFFECTING THE USE OF PESTICIDES
  7. 5 COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE APPLICATIONS OF PESTICIDES
  8. 6 PESTICIDE REGULATORY POLICY
  9. 7 SUMMARY
  10. REFERENCES

In the U.S. the use of synthetic organic pesticides grew dramatically from the 1960s to the early 1980s, as farmers adopted this technology, but it has stabilized and fluctuated since then, once farmers used pesticides widely. The overall trend is largely the same as the herbicide trend, but other components are a more gradual increase of ‘other pesticide’ use until the early 2000s, and a general decrease in insecticide use since the mid-1970s. Herbicides and insecticides reached their maximum acreage treated on many large acreage crops by early 1980s. So, major factors affecting the overall use trend since 1980 have been: (1) changes in crop acreage, affected by economic and policy factors, (2) the replacement of older compounds with newer ones applied at lower per-acre rates, contributing to reduced pesticide quantities, and (3) the adoption of genetically engineered crops since the mid-1990s. Adoption of genetically engineered insect-resistant corn and cotton reduced acreage treated with synthetic insecticides and quantities applied, while adoption of herbicide-tolerant corn, cotton and soybeans encouraged dramatic increases in glyphosate use that displaced use of many widely used older and newer herbicides.

The use of agricultural pesticides and other pest control practices and technologies responded to input and output markets and agricultural programs, which influenced crop acreage, management and production. Some studies indicate that, from the farmer's viewpoint, financial returns justified increased pesticide use, but more recent studies suggested over-use. Relative price trends may have encouraged pesticide use from 1965 to 1980, a period of rapid growth in use, and from 2000 to 2011, a period of slower growth, but from 1980 to 2000, price trends may have reflected high pesticide demand and contributed to stabilizing use. There is also an argument, supported by economic theory, that farm programs encouraged more pesticide use per acre than is economically efficient, but acreage restrictions reduced pesticide use as compared to previous years. Changes in farm program legislation since 1977 weakened the effects of farm programs on pesticide use by reducing financial incentives and increasing planting flexibility, but changes in diverted and CRP acreage may have affected crop acreage and, thus, pesticide use. While some economists argued that crop insurance could discourage use of pesticides as risk-reducing inputs, empirical evidence is mixed. However, Federally subsidized crop insurance and biofuels policy may have encouraged greater crop acreage and pesticide use.

Increased pesticide use has not solved all pest control problems. One concern is that over-used pesticides cause overly rapid development of pest resistance and mortality of beneficial species, including natural enemies of pests, so that farmers spend too much on pesticides and incur greater pest losses than would otherwise occur. The use of IPM and economic thresholds can eliminate unnecessary, counter-productive pesticide applications and encourage non-chemical practices where economically feasible. While economic thresholds would eliminate treatments where treatment costs exceed damage reductions, rapid growth rates and spread of damaging pests or invasive species could justify treatment of small infestations, perhaps as part of public eradication or large area programs, to prevent damages at other locations and in the future, even if current control costs exceed current damage reductions. In the 1990s, the United States instituted policies encouraging IPM to reduce undesirable health and environmental effects of pesticide use and improve the cost-effectiveness of pest control, but USDA IPM programs have been criticized for encouraging rather than discouraging pesticide use.

The pesticide regulatory process directly affects the use of individual materials by influencing the types of new pesticides developed, registering new materials, and removing others from the market, but only indirectly affects aggregate quantity. Changing societal values toward pesticide risks and benefits have had a profound effect on pesticide policy, influencing the pesticides available for use. Early pesticide regulatory policy encouraged adoption of the new technology by attempting to assure product quality. In response to public concerns emerging in the 1960s, policy changed to emphasize protection from hazards, so that most regulatory decisions involved risk–benefit comparisons. But public concern about pesticide hazards, including dietary risks, and USEPA's ability to resolve pesticide controversies continued. The FQPA increased regulatory flexibility, on the one hand, by resolving the Delaney Paradox, but reduced flexibility, on the other, by imposing new risk standards in place of risk–benefit comparisons. The pesticide re-registration process and FQPA tolerance review, by revoking residue tolerances and cancelling pesticide registrations, influenced the mix of pesticides used and reduced pest control options in some cases. While reduced regulatory flexibility might create economic inefficiencies, the current pesticide regulatory process might be consistent with policy preferences held by much of the public—to reduce pesticide hazards rather than minimize regulatory costs.

REFERENCES

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. 1 INTRODUCTION
  4. 2 METHODS: ESTIMATION OF PESTICIDE USE
  5. 3 TRENDS IN PESTICIDE USE
  6. 4 ECONOMIC FACTORS AFFECTING THE USE OF PESTICIDES
  7. 5 COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE APPLICATIONS OF PESTICIDES
  8. 6 PESTICIDE REGULATORY POLICY
  9. 7 SUMMARY
  10. REFERENCES
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7.1 Notes

  1. Citrus insecticide estimates were modified by removing sulfur in 1993 (based on NASS estimates) from the estimate in Lin et al.[10] and Padgitt et al.[12] and re-interpolating citrus pesticide use in 1992 and 1994. Based on 1992 NASS estimates, sulfur was removed from the per acre fungicide estimates in Lin et al.[10] for ‘all vegetables’ in 1992, 1990 rates re-interpolated from 1979 and 1992 estimates, and 1991 and 1993 estimates recomputed.
  2. Examples of compounds in each herbicide and insecticide family are listed in the footnotes to Tables 4 and 6.
  3. Estimates in Figs 3-6 and Fig. 11 for years with no published estimates are linear interpolations between survey years.
  4. Before a pesticide can be used in the U.S. it must be registered under FIFRA, currently administered by USEPA. Registrations specify sites (such as specific crops or livestock) where pesticides can be applied, application rate, methods of use, or locations of use for pesticide products. For a pesticide to be registered for use on a food crop, FFDCA requires residue tolerances or exemptions from tolerance for the raw commodity and all processed foods and feeds, rotational crops, and livestock where residues can be found. USEPA establishes residue tolerances, while FDA monitors residues and enforces the tolerances.