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The first thing that needs to be done is defining what a synthetic pesticide is and what biodiversity is. A synthetic pesticide is a chemical used to kill or repel pests and biodiversity is the variety of life in the world. According to the US Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health, at least 5.6 billion pounds of pesticides are used annually around the world.
The World Wild Life organization has released a Living Planet Report which states that between 1970 and 2012, the population of animals which live on land has decreased by 38%, the population of freshwater creatures has declined by 81% and the population of marine life has decreased by 36%. In this report, I will be exploring the impact of an increased use of pesticides on biodiversity from a global perspective, the national perspective from India and a local perspective from Tamil Nadu, and I also will be exploring.
India consumes 3.5% of the total pesticides used by the world. Though this is not much, it has still had adverse effects on India’s biodiversity. Problems The increased usage of synthetic pesticides has resulted in many problems regarding biodiversity, but I will be mainly focusing on how pesticides harm innocent animals, affect the food chain and have caused some species to become extinct. These problems have direct effects on biodiversity.
Synthetic Pesticides Harm Innocent Animals Neonicotinoids are commonly used as an insecticide. These chemicals are supposed to be 10,000 times more powerful than DDT and can cause instant death to insects.Four nanograms of clothianidin, a type of neonicotinoid, kills half of the honeybees which feed on it. A major decline in the bee population was reported in the Nilgiris region of Tamil Nadu.
This holds true not only in Tamil Nadu but all over India. It was found that wherever synthetic pesticides were not used, that agricultural land had a higher diversity of bee species, but the opposite was found in places that used a lot of synthetic pesticides. A decrease in bee diversity was also noticed in the US and parts of Europe. In fact, annually, both places lose 30% of their hives. Because of this, the European Commission decided to place a ban on neonicotinoids. Not only are bees affected by synthetic pesticides, but also frogs.
One of the most commonly used synthetic pesticides in the world, Atrazine, is also the most common contaminator of water bodies. According to the US Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health, this pesticide can affect the endocrine system in most amphibians like frogs. When adult male amphibians were exposed to this pesticide, they were feminized. This means that they lost their masculine traits.
Birds are also harmed by synthetic pesticide usage. The main synthetic pesticide that harms them is neonicotinoids. Neonicotinoids are responsible for the population decline in about 14 different bird species. Scientists from the Netherlands found that areas where the water was contaminated by imidacloprid—a common neonicotinoid pesticide, there was an average 3.5% decrease annually. In India, many birds such as the Indian Skimmer, the Falcated Duck, the Black-tailed Godwit, and the Spoon-billed Sandpiper have all become endangered because of the increased usage of pesticides.
The increased usage of synthetic pesticides has also negatively affected bats. Most bat species in Tamil Nadu are endangered because of the pesticides used on insects – which are their main source of food. All over India, bats are becoming endangered because they ingest the toxic pesticides used on insects when they eat insects. Because of this, the world population of bats which was at 8.7 million during 1936, fell to 700,000 in 1991. Finally, synthetic pesticides also have negative effects on cats and dogs. Dogs and cats get exposed to pesticides when they walk on land that has been treated by the pesticide. It gets onto their fur, and when they lick their fur, the pesticides go inside them. They have various effects on dogs and cats such as vomiting, diarrhea, depression, increased heart rate, anorexia, respiratory problems, and many other side effects.
Synthetic pesticides affect the food chain Chlorpyrifos is a pesticide which is mainly used in India. This pesticide can contaminate water sources which means that it can easily get into the food chain.Exposure to chlorpyrifos can cause damage to the nervous system, headaches, dizziness, diarrhea and even paralysis. As it can take years for this pesticide to break down, it can contaminate nearby water sources and have effects on any animals which consume water from this source and other animals who consume animals exposed to this chemical. Also, synthetic pesticides applied to crops grown for food can get into humans by simply consuming them.
According to the US Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health, in Andhra Pradesh, a state in Southern India, over a thousand deaths caused by pesticides are reported annually. Not only are people dying because of synthetic pesticides in India, but worldwide, the UN has reported that 200,000 people die annually because of synthetic pesticide poisoning and diseases caused by foods containing synthetic pesticides.
There are also indirect effects on other animals because when animals lower in the food chain die from synthetic pesticides, animals higher in the food chain have a decrease in their food supply which results in a decrease in their population. Synthetic pesticides have caused species to become extinct Mainly due to synthetic pesticides, at least 14 bird species in India are on the verge of extinction, including the White-rumped Vulture, the Indian Vulture, the Red-headed Vulture, the Pink-headed Duck, the White-bellied Heron, the Sociable Lapwing, the Christmas Frigatebird, and the Jerdon’s Courser.
Not only in India are species becoming extinct, but also in other countries such as the US, where 97% of the species listed under the Endangered Species Act are harmed by synthetic pesticides. These species have become extinct and many more which are on the verge of extinction or are endangered because of either accidentally ingesting synthetic pesticides by directly eating crops treated with it and facing the side effects or by a decrease in their food supply due to synthetic pesticides killing the species which serve as their food. The Merits of Organic Farming Firstly, the definition of what exactly organic farming needs to be set.
Organic farming is a methodology which involves no use of synthetic chemicals or pesticides. There are many benefits which arise from this and that address the issues raised by the use of synthetic pesticides. In organic farming, farmers do not use synthetic pesticides or herbicides to get rid of weeds and pests. Instead, the farmer either manually does it or relies on animals to eat the pests and weeds. This addresses the issue of innocent animals being harmed as no chemicals are being used which may accidentally harm an animal.
Only the target organisms are killed. Additionally, the food chain is not affected because animals are not eating crops containing harmful chemicals and facing the side effects or facing a shortage in the food supply because animals which eat pests or weeds are being encouraged to eat them. Finally, animals and plants are safe from the threat of extinction because they are not being killed by synthetic pesticides, but are instead being manually removed, which ensures that their population will not decrease drastically.
There is also a multitude of other benefits which emerge from following organic farming over using synthetic pesticides. In Tamil Nadu, a state which has been facing an extremely severe drought for over a hundred years, a decision was made by some of the farmers, who decided that organic farming would be the best way to combat the drought and yield a good harvest. This has proved successful for them, according to Al Jazeera. This has not only occurred in Tamil Nadu but other states in India as well.
Whichever farmers switched to organic farming experienced a 95% chance of the crops germinating and being sold for consumption. An increase in crop production has actually been seen all over the world by farmers who switched to organic farming. There have been many negative impacts upon biodiversity due to an increased usage of synthetic pesticides. These synthetic pesticides have been unintentionally harming other animals, disrupting the food chain, and causing an increase in the number of extinct species. All over the world, the toxic effects of pesticides are being felt by animals, plants, and humans. The best way to address this is to switch completely to organic farming.
Organic farming allows for an increase in the crop yield, while also combating the disadvantages that synthetic pesticides pose. Worldwide, people have started to recognize the potential of organic farming and are slowly converting from using synthetic pesticides to organic farming. This will help minimize the damage already done to the world’s biodiversity, and will also prove fruitful to the farmers as they will have an increase in agricultural yield and profit.
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