|Source: Resource: Engineering & Technology for a
Sustainable World, Dec
1999 v6 i12 p11.
Title: Pesticide Economics.(Statistical Data Included)
Author: Ronald D. Knutson and Edward G. Smith
Full Text COPYRIGHT 1999 American Society of Agricultural Engineers
Policies to reduce pesticide use can increase costs - on a global
The 1996 Food Quality Protection Act renewed public attention to
The Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M University
has focused on
this issue by providing leadership for three studies over the past
Their conclusion: Less pesticide use reduces production, global
competitiveness and world food security. The research also led
question whether reduced chemical use provides the environmental
sought by policy makers.
Two Texas A&M researchers who worked on the three studies are:
* regents professor Ronald Knutson, director of the Agricultural and
Policy Center, and
* professor of extension economics and policy Edward Smith, a Roy B.
professor of agricultural cooperation in the Agricultural and Food
The researchers used estimates of yield impacts and changes in
practices associated with a chemical use reduction scenario. Nationally
recognized university scientists with a broad knowledge base in the
crop provided this data.
A farm management economist developed production costs per acre and
yield impacts and cultural practice data. An agriculture sector model
at Texas A&M helped derive price and aggregate production level
model is currently maintained by Robert Taylor at Auburn University.
Figure 1 shows yield effects using no pesticides in 1990, and no
organophosphates or carbamates in 1999, on corn, cotton and rice. Yield
reductions per acre ranged from 57 percent in rice to 32 percent in corn
no pesticides in 1990. For bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton and corn,
estimates would be lower.
Estimates for eliminating organo-phosphates and carbamates showed
yields ranging from 14 percent for cotton to 4 percent for corn. The
yield reduction for cotton was attributed to the lack of malathion for
eradicating boll weevils.
[Graphic omitted]Figure 2 shows comparable data from a 1993 study and
study for apples, peaches and tomatoes. Using no pesticides, yield
ranged from 100 percent for apples to 77 percent for tomatoes in 1993.
Currently, with no organophosphates or carbamates, the reduction ranges
38 percent in apples to 2 percent in peaches.
Results from 15 commodities studied drew the following conclusions:
* The broader the group of pesticides eliminated, the greater the
* Yield risk increases as chemical alternatives for dealing with
* Fruits and vegetables are more adversely impacted than other crops.
* Yield reductions are variable among crops.
* The most pesticide-dependent crops include tomatoes, cotton, apples
peanuts. Wheat is least dependent.
* The most pesticide-dependent areas have long growing seasons, no
and high humidity.
Cost and price effects
In percentages, variable costs per unit increase higher than yields.
example, cotton yield estimates decreased 14 percent without organ-ophosphates
and carbamates. But variable costs per unit increased 22 percent. This
multiple effect is more noticeable as the range of pesticides eliminated
broadens. Higher variable costs result because alternative cultural
are more expensive. This relationship, with reduced yield risk, was the
original purpose of using pesticides.
The percentage reduction of a commodity produced in the United States
than the percentage reduction in yield per acre. The reason is that with
higher prices, more land is put into production and is farmed more
intensively. Intensive farming, and expanding to marginal land for crop
production, can be inconsistent with environmental goals set by public
Decreases in crops such as rice and cotton became large enough in
to threaten the production and marketing infrastructure. The boll
return to the Southeast, after eliminating malathion, could devastate
production in this region. Cotton production in the Southeast
prior to boll weevil eradication.
The percentage of crop price increase is greater than the percentage
reduced production due to the inelastic nature of the demand for farm
products. For example, cotton production decreased 9 percent without
organophosphates and carbamates. But cotton prices increased 13 percent.
The result is higher net incomes for farmers who survive the
However, the net income of livestock, dairy and poultry producers
with higher feed prices.
Exports tumble with higher prices as the U.S.'s comparative advantage
international markets decreases. Without pesticides, U.S. grain exports
decreased an estimated 15 percent and cotton exports dropped 46 percent.
With less exports and higher prices, imports are attracted to the
States. Many countries have environmental regulations similar to the
States but their enforcement is variable. The result is that U.S.
be replaced by imported products carrying more chemical residue. These
products are produced by farmers paying lower costs because they are
unconstrained by U.S. regulations for pesticides.
Overall economic impacts
Other economic impacts from research on eliminating organophosphates
* Negative economic effects of higher prices on U.S. consumers were
double the positive net income effects on crop producers.
* The negative global economic effects on consumers were about triple
benefits to major crop producers.
* The overall gross domestic product loss was triple the size of the
economic benefit to crop producers.
Health and nutrition
[Graphic omitted]Researchers at Auburn and Harvard universities drew
following conclusions to be factored into pesticide policy and
* Reduced production and higher prices lead to less fruit, vegetable
consumption. Less fruit and vegetable consumption relates to lower
Government policies encourage increased intake of these often
products. But reduced fat intake has positive dietary attributes.
* Harvard scientists believe the negative health effects due to
organophosphates and carbamates may be offset by substitute pesticides
toxicity profiles, plants that produce natural toxins under high stress
conditions or changes in diet composition.
* Developed countries could make decisions about reducing pesticide
without considering the effects on the poor, resource allocation and
An analyses of the economic and health effects of reducing pesticide
suggest that policy makers should consider a broader set of risks under
Food Quality Protection Act. Current risk factors consider the target
pesticide's effect on health -- often based on untested assumptions.
offsetting or countervailing risks requires a broader approach. Using an
economic cost-benefit balancing method could benefit current policy
Ronald D. Kuntson is regents professor and director of the
Food Policy Center, Texas A&M University.
Edward G. Smith is professor of extension economics and policy and
David professor of agricultural cooperation in the Agricultural and Food
Policy Centers, Texas A&M University.
No pesticides and carbamates
Corn 32 4
Cotton 39 14
Rice 57 5
No pesticides and carbamates
Apples 100 38
Peaches 81 2
Tomatoes 77 15