Why do we need Pesticides?

Ever since the first cultivation of plants for food, these plants have needed to be protected against pests and diseases.  The level of sophistication of this protection has increased with time.  The Romans used ashes, crushed cypress leaves and diluted urines to protect their crops.  Today, a wide range of synthetic products have been developed to give much safer, more targeted and effective control of pests and diseases. 

Pesticides are used in a wide range of settings with one of the most important areas being in agriculture.  PPP use allows more food to be produced on a given area of land; it increases yields and improves farm revenues.  Without PPPs, crop losses due to pests and diseases are between 30 and 50% depending on the crop grown.  By protecting crops, PPPs contribute to the production of a plentiful supply of high-quality and affordable food, and contribute to food security.  Farmers use pesticides to:

  • protect crops from insect pests, weeds and fungal diseases while they are growing
  • prevent rats, mice, flies and other insects from contaminating foods whilst they are being stored
  • safeguard human health, by stopping food crops being contaminated by fungi


However, as pesticides are used to kill or control harmful organisms, unwanted pests, weeds, etc. they have the capacity to harm people, other non-target organisms (wildlife) and the environment.  Legislation to control the marketing and use of pesticides is designed to minimise such risks and strict controls are in place over their sale and use.  End users of pesticides (farmers, professional growers or gardeners) need to ensure that they are used safely and effectively.

The right balance, between the need to increase food production with the need to ensure the safety of people, food and the environment needs to be struck.