Our health is seen as something to be valued; not only is it important for having a longer lifespan and aging healthily, but research has shown that health plays an important role in how high we rate our happiness (Centraal Bureau Statistiek, 2016). So it’s not surprising we’re very protective of our health and try to minimize any threat to it. Pesticides are seen as one of these potential threats to our health; but while some threats are a clear cut case, this is not the case in this instance. There’s a large variety of interests at stake, mainly those of farmers, environmental organisations and civilians. Additionally to the factual differences in needs and interests, the gaps between these stakeholders are often enlarged by miscommunication and misconceptions.
Over half of the Netherland’s bodies of water are deemed vulnerable. When farms are located near these bodies of water, pesticides and nitrate, through fertiliser, can seep into the soil and find its way into the water. Furthermore, when a farm is located near a living area, the negative consequences of pesticides can be airborne. To minimise these risks, the government has set up a certain set of rules: certain spray nozzles are used to concentrate the pesticides to one specific place, high maintenance crops are sprayed more often with a lower dosage of toxic components and lastly, pesticide spray-free zones are set up near bodies of water, nature reserves and living areas.
Additionally, every pesticide and toxic substance is tested by “Het College voor de toelating van gewasbeschermingsmiddelen en biociden” (Ctgb), an organisation that establishes whether or not products meant for the protection of crops are too toxic, and if they make the sale of this product illegal.
These measures can be very limiting to farmers however and most environmental instances see them as unfulfilling to fix the problem at hand. This results in them having conflicting opinions on the matter.
One of the places where this is most evident is Drenthe. Read below the image about the impact pesticides have on the province of Drenthe.
The civilian’s and environmental organisation’s side
Toxic substances finding their way into the water and air is a of great discomfort to people living near these farming areas. Water of these areas are pumped up again to be used for potable water, after filtering. While the water is safe to ingest after cleaning, the image of the toxic substances of the pesticides finding its way into our drinking water exists with civilians. Additionally, higher and higher concentrations of toxins, like Nitrate, in the water and air means they find their way into nature which can have a negative effect on the flora and fauna.
The Natuur en Milieufederatie Drenthe (Nature and environmental federation Drenthe) wants the current rules related to pesticides to be tightened in Drenthe, since high concentrations of toxic waste can be found near living spaces in this area. The national and provincial policies, the provincial stimulation approach and ongoing projects lead to insufficient results according to the NMFD. They want biological farming to be stimulated, something already done in Groningen, and the pesticide spray-free zones to be expanded. These measures however, would come with large consequences to farmers.
The farmer’s side
According to most farmers, the monitoring role of the Ctgb already confirms that the substances used are safe to use, granted current safety measures are used. This would means tightening current rules would be useless and counteractive. Additionally, certain high maintenance crops cannot be kept without the proper care, of which using pesticides is an important aspect. For example, our loved tulips would not be able to flourish in a situation where the rules for usage of pesticides are more strict. To adhere to the current rules, high maintenance crops are sprayed with a lower dosage. However, this means pesticides have to be used more often; which is often accompanied with a negative reaction of non-farmers, because it creates the image of more pesticides being used as a whole.
In 2015, 8% of the total national added value existed of the agriculture sector, of which 46% consisted of the agriculture sector. Since agriculture is such a large part of our economy it’s important that these problems surrounding the gaps and misunderstandings between the two stakeholders are resolved. In the future other solutions to the usage of pesticides might have to be deployed to find a middle ground.
Top image: Flickr, Aqua Mechanical
Centraal Bureau Statistiek, 2016. Gezondheid, relaties en werk belangrijker voor geluk dan geld. [Online]
Available at: https://www.cbs.nl/nl-nl/nieuws/2016/11/gezondheid-relaties-en-werk-belangrijker-voor-geluk-dan-geld
[Geopend 21 4 2018].