University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
A Risk-Benefit Analysis of Pesticide Use: Do the Ends Justify the Means?
Envr 600: Environmental Health
Dr. Courtney Woods
23 February 2014
The use of pesticides in agriculture has long been a highly controversial issue with numerous economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits. While an abundance of both costs and benefits do indeed exist, this paper will conduct a risk-benefit analysis to demonstrate that the risks associated with pesticide use actually outweigh the benefits – meaning, the ends do not, in fact, justify the means.
Prior to identifying the benefits and risks associated with pesticide use, we must first describe the effects of pesticides. A 2007 study on the benefits of pesticides to mankind and the environment by researchers Jerry Cooper and Hans Dobson stated that the three main effects of pesticides are: 1. to control agricultural pests, such as diseases and weeds, and vectors of plant disease, 2. to control human and livestock disease vectors and nuisance organisms, and 3. to prevent or control organisms that harm other human activities and structures (Cooper and Dobson 3). The above effects enable us to easily begin to see the potential benefits and risks associated with pesticide use. Now that we have described the three main effects of pesticide use, let’s proceed by specifically identifying the potential benefits related to the use of pesticides in agriculture.
The benefits associated with pesticide use can be divided into two categories: primary benefits and secondary benefits. In particular, the primary benefits refer to the direct consequences of the pesticides’ effects whereas the secondary benefits include less obvious and longer-term consequences. From the three main effects described above, Cooper and Dobson identified 26 primary benefits ranging from saved human lives to improved...
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