A University of Sydney led study published in Nature has revealed the chemical odyssey pesticides embark upon after their initial agricultural application, with environmental consequences for a range of ecosystems.
Revealing that around 70 thousand tons of agricultural pesticides leak into aquifers each year, affecting ecosystems and freshwater resources, this new Nature study describes how the chemicals can travel far from their initial application sites, often ending up in the ocean and posing risks to marine wildlife and coral reefs.
According to the study authors, around 730 tons of pesticides enter rivers each year, with levels in 13 thousand kilometers of rivers exceeding the safety limits for aquatic plants and invertebrates.
The study also estimates that up to 80 percent of agricultural pesticides degrade into harmful byproducts in the soil where they are sprayed. Some of these chemicals, such as those resulting from use of the herbicide glyphosate, can be highly toxic.
Worse still, however, the Nature paper likely understates the scale of the problem as pesticides used in aquaculture, private dwellings, and public spaces were excluded from the analysis. In reality, therefore, the worldwide damage resulting from the use of these dangerous agricultural chemicals may be significantly greater than the study suggests.
To read how scientific research is increasingly confirming the health benefits of food produced organically, see this article on our website.