Regulated vs unregulated vs partially regulated use of insecticides
Regulations are part of modern life and control each and every aspect of activity in the United States. Both individuals and corporations are subject regulations and vigorously advocate their opinions. The opinions, sometimes and in some cases, tend to be extreme in some thinking that there is too little federal regulation while some others feel that there is too much regulation. This polarization of views on regulation can be attributed in large part to a lack of good understanding of the research supporting regulation and burdensome problems in practice or implementation of regulations.
The use of insecticides in the U.S. is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as per the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). In addition, States also regulate pesticides under state pesticide laws usually by that state's agriculture departments.
Insecticides are organophosphates that inactivate the enzyme acetylcholinesterase and produce neurotoxicity. One can understand the intense regulations surrounding organophosphate insecticide use considering that deadly chemical warfare nerve agents such sarin and VX are nothing but highly potent organophosphates with the same mechanism of action. Nonetheless, the overall good and benefits to humanity that Insecticides afforded in the past few decades support their continued use, perhaps on a wider scale in the future. A close look at the pros and cons of insecticides gives a better perspective and develop a balanced view of the regulations.
Pros: Insecticide use is credited with saving millions of human lives from death by preventing diseases such as malaria (World Health Organization, 2013). Agricultural crops benefit considerably through using pesticides and the pesticides are a key factor for the achievements of Green Revolution in the third world countries (Wikipedia, his page was last modified on 15 April 2014 at 03:04). Insecticide usage allows the availability of consumer products such as fruits, vegetables and forestry products at affordable prices and high quality (McDaniel College, 2002). The economics of pesticide and insecticide production (with >$50 billion business) are too enticing to restrict or ban outright production (McDaniel College, 2002).
Cons: The cost in human life as estimated by the World Health Organization (WHO) is staggering with 1-5 million people dyeing due to acute poisoning (McDaniel College, 2002). Most, if not all, insecticides are nonspecific and affect a large number of species including wildlife. In addition to the well known mechanism based neurological effects, insecticide cause serious adverse events on the respiratory and reproductive systems (Pimentel, 2005). Other health risks including cancer are a direct result of these agents (Pimentel, 2005).
Burdens: Insecticide development and approval for use quite complex. The products go through >100 health, safety and environmental tests. It takes an average of nine years and costs hundreds of million dollars before a product can be introduced into market. The success rate from the discovery laboratory to the market is very low with one in 139,000 potential hits successfully making it.
In conclusion, the use of insecticides over the past century has undoubtedly relieved human suffering and bestowed many health, food and economic benefits. In the same vein, these substances are deadly poisons that potentially can eradicate many species if unregulated and too-widely used. A balanced approach to the use of insecticides based on available scientific evidence is more pragmatic and practical.
In my opinion, a balanced approach of partial regulations would be less burdensome on individuals or corporations. Partial regulation would entail lifting most aspects of regulation once a product establishes its safety in scientific and public minds. More toxic and new products would be regulated until establishing their safety.
McDaniel College, M. (2002). Pesticides. from http://www2.mcdaniel.edu/Biology/eh01/pesticides/pesticidesESP.html
Pimentel, D. (2005). ENVIRONMENTAL AND ECONOMIC COSTS OF THE APPLICATION OF PESTICIDES PRIMARILY IN THE UNITED STATES. Environment, Development and Sustainability, 7, 229–252.
Wikipedia, t. f. e. (his page was last modified on 15 April 2014 at 03:04). Green Revolution.
World Health Organization, W. (2013). Factsheet on the World Malaria Report 2013.