Have you always been told to “wash your fruit and veg”? It seems that the concern regarding pesticides used in foods never really caught the attention of the public and has been handled with a simple gesture from the government to “wash away the concern”. Ironically pesticides cannot be washed away as they are induced into the product but no one (even the people who are aware) seems to bother. I think there are multiple reasons as to why society does not shine more light on pesticides and the fatal effects they can cause in people http://www.green-blog.org/2010/05/19/5-reasons-why-pesticides-are-bad/ and animals; we need them! If pesticides were banned, fruit and veg would grow pests which means waste and eventually shortage of food. With the population expected to increase with 30% by 2050, we simply cannot afford to lose pesticides.
Another factor that feeds the ethics of using pesticides is that if banned it could pose a huge threat to agriculture as farmers and producers would be involuntarily involved in a complete change in production methods and that will not go without expenses. Eventually some foods would become more expensive. Lots of people argue that people’s well-being should be considered a higher priority and that the law governing pesticides need alteration whereas others believe that pesticides are necessary for sustaining balance between a growing population and food production.
I recently sat down with some study colleagues and asked them if they were aware that pesticides can lead to the development of diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer, birth-defects, reproduction difficulties and more. None of them had heard of this. None of them had even given much thought to what pesticides are. Is this not a bit absurd? I myself was not aware of these pesticide-induced diseases until recently and I am wondering why this is. To go back to the introduction: the ignorance towards the effects of pesticides stem from the attention it has been given by the government and resellers. We often have a tendency to connote impressions in a way that suggests mirroring of the behavior of others. We also interpret danger based on the intensity of media attention it is given.
I think that one of the reasons why i.e. BBC http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/493469.stm sheds more light on the usage of pesticides is because many people are unaware of the use of the chemicals and therefore not left with an informed choice when doing groceries. Is it our responsibility to stay informed? Is it ethically correct to use pesticides which are proven dangerous to our health without being properly informed?
Buying organic food is one way of avoiding pesticides and is therefore also a choice given to us consumers. But especially in times of recession most people are likely to go for the cheaper option – some are even forced to. The point that I am trying to make here is that instead of leaving people in the dark when it comes to the production of foods and other products, the consumer should be able to make an informed choice of the product they purchase let alone be educated in the potential dangers of consuming it. I asked the same course mates to identify to what extend they trust the producer’s labeling of products. I asked the question twice, in the beginning and after our discussion; Once made aware of the facts about pesticides most of them stated that they had lost trust.
My final question is: Who bears the responsibility of keeping the public informed?
By: Ida Gall Jørgensen