We will focus on farms, because farmers consume (that is, use) about 77% of all pesticides in the US. However, it is important to realize that the problem isn't all related to farm uses. It is estimated that about 10% of the land area in the US (including forests, lawns, etc.) is treated annually with pesticides. Home gardeners are often some of the most extravagant and sloppy users!) (One major environmental science text book asserts that the average US homeowner uses 2 - 6 times more pesticide per acre than do farmers.)
In the US, the total pounds of pesticide active ingredients applied on farms increased 170% between 1964 and 1982 (the increase was much greater between ~ 1945 and the late 1990's). These figures related only to the agricultural sector. In evaluating these increases, it is important to remember the increased toxicity of pesticides; one pound of active ingredient for current products is many times greater than one pound for earlier generations of pesticides in terms of toxicity. Pesticide use in US agriculture has been relatively stable since the mid-1980's across all types of pesticides, however herbicide use is still tending to increase. The next section of notes elaborates and updates information on pesticide use in US agriculture.
See Agricultural Resources and Environmental Indicators for additional information on trends in pesticide use in the US, updated preiodically.
One might think that this trend was driven by increasing agricultural acreage over this time? Recall, during this time, total acres under cultivation basically decreased , so the increase in pesticide use wasn't driven by increased agricultural acreage.
North America uses about 30% of the world total
Europe uses about 27%
Approximately 31% is used in developing nations, including China
The next section (">>" at the bottom of this page) discusses trends in pesticide use in US agriculture in more detail. For general reminders on how to navigate within and among these pages, click "Navigate ," here.
Page last updated October 22, 2012. Page maintained by Patricia Muir at Oregon State University.