Modern agriculture is designed to produce high yields. But it also depletes the soil. How do over-fertilization and pesticides impact the environment and humans? Are we poisoning our world and driving species to extinction?
Fertile farmland is a precious resource – and it is vital to food production. But the abundant use of chemicals is ravaging the Earth, while pesticides are making species go extinct, contaminating soils, and killing off microorganisms important to a healthy generation of humus.
Glyphosate, neonicotinoids, organophosphates, or pyrethroids: These are just a few of the approximately 1,000 pesticides and herbicides approved in Germany to kill pests, fungi, and weeds. Farmers distribute about 90,000 tons of pesticides a year on their crops – yielding billions of euros of business for chemical companies. “Neonicotinoids are flushed into the soil by the rain. There, they are highly toxic to many organisms … They poison insects and the environment”, explains toxicologist Henk Tennekes. Neurotoxins from neonicotinoids have long been suspected of causing bees to die en masse. It took 30 years for neonicotinoids to be prohibited EU-wide, in 2021, even though early studies had warned against their use. Even now, the fight isn’t over. For one thing, emergency approvals for neonicotinoids are being used to circumvent their prohibition. For another, other substances with similar applications have been on the market for a long time, the effects of which are insufficiently researched. Moreover, neonicotinoids are still authorized for use in many countries outside the EU.
Nearly 40 percent of the EU budget is spent on agriculture. The common agricultural policy (CAP) was recently renegotiated and will be in place until 2027. It is supposed to also promote eco- and climate-friendly agriculture. But many say the new CAP is still far from green.