Factory farms use a quarter billion pounds of pesticide to feed animals: report

Millions of pounds of toxic pesticides were sprayed on feed crops for factory farmed animals across the country, a new report claims.

Around 235 million pounds of herbicides and insecticides were used on corn and soy crops in the United States in 2018, according to the report compiled by the World Animal Protection, US and the Center for Biological Diversity.

This report highlights six chemicals and one class of chemicals that are used on corn and soybeans in the US and have increased in recent use.


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The herbicide used the most frequently on feed crops in 2018 was glyphosate, which is the main ingredient in the common weedkiller Roundup. According to the report, about 100 million pounds of the herbicide were used on corn and soy plants that year.

Scientists have connected glyphosate to several human health problems including cancer.

One study from the University of Washington found that exposure to glyphosate increased a person’s risk of someday developing cancer by 40 percent.

Federal regulators estimate that glyphosate is likely to harm or kill 93 percent of the animals and plants protected under the Endangered Species Act, according to the report’s findings.

The second most used herbicide per the study was atrazine. A little over 60 million pounds of atrazine were placed on corn and soybeans in the United States in 2018, a 17 percent increase from the amount used in 2012, report findings show.

But while atrazine continues to be used in the United States, the chemical is banned in 35 countries including several in Europe due to its harmful nature, the report states. Atrazine, which has been found in a number of streams and drinking water supplies, has been shown to alter the reproductive system of frogs.

Atrazine can potentially harm over 1,000 protected species, over half of which are endangered plants and animals in the US like the California red-legged frog, the whooping crane and the San Joaquin kit fox, the report adds.

The study’s authors worry that if nothing is done to curb the use of the listed pesticides and herbicides the amount sprayed onto feed crops, and eventually groundwater, will continue to grow

“It is critical that we understand the full environmental footprint of animal products so people can understand the true impacts of their food choices,” said Cameron Harsh, programs director at World Animal Protection US. “Meat and dairy companies consume resources, such as feed crops and the land used to grow them, at unsustainable rates to create calorie-dense diets for the billions of farmed animals raised in the US each year. Wild animals and ecosystems are paying the price.”

The Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment, a national trade association representing manufacturers, distributors and formulars of specialty pesticides and fertilizers, has yet to respond to a request for comment from Changing America.


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