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Pesticides Cause 'Catastrophic' Harm to People and Planet, UN Report Says

The chronic overuse of pesticides across the world has caused "catastrophic" harms to human health, human rights and global biodiversity, according to a report presented to the United Nations human rights council Wednesday.

The UN-solicited study on toxic chemical impacts to global food sources criticizes pesticide manufacturers' "systematic denial" of the broad harms caused by their products and calls for a transition to healthier farming methods that move away from the current dependence on pesticides.

"This report vividly reveals the harms pesticide manufacturers have caused by promoting the myth that their toxic chemicals are necessary to feed the world," said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. "As this report recommends, we must move away from the industry-driven addiction to pesticides that is poisoning farmworkers, contaminating our water and wildlife and causing long-term human health problems."

The report is part of a growing body of evidence detailing the harms caused by the overuse and under-regulation of pesticides. For example, a study published last week in the journal Nature Plants found pesticide use could be heavily reduced in most situations without an impact to crop yield.

The UN report finds that poverty, coupled with inequitable production and distribution systems, are two of the major barriers to feeding the hungry.

"Far from being necessary for feeding a growing population, the overuse of pesticides has crippled agricultural ecosystems by helping to spur pest infestations," said Donley. "Nature is our ally, not our adversary. Now, governments must take aggressive action to change course and protect people and the environment from these dangerous, overused pesticides."

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Earth Day Tips From the EcoWatch Team

At EcoWatch, every day is Earth Day. We don't just report news about the environment—we aim to make the world a better place through our own actions. From conserving water to cutting waste, here are some tips and tricks from our team on living mindfully and sustainably.

Lorraine Chow, reporter

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