Pesticides. Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em — or so we thought. A new report released by the United Nations has just busted the myth that pesticides are necessary when it comes to feeding the world population. Many of us have long believed that in spite of all the harm pesticides cause, they are altruistically good because they can be used to feed growing populations. In other words, we’ve been believing the lie that pesticides are a necessary evil. Well, according to the study “Without or with minimal use of toxic chemicals, it is possible to produce healthier, nutrient-rich food, with higher yields in the longer term, without polluting and exhausting environmental resources.”

According to the authors of the report, “pesticides, which have been aggressively promoted, are a global human rights concern, and their use can have very detrimental consequences on the enjoyment of the right to food.” One study connected an almost certainly carcinogenic pesticide used by big companies to permanent genetic damage — and it is present in a lot of groceries that you probably pick up during your weekly shopping trip.

You’re asking yourself, “how are pesticides allowed?” Well, according to the UN report, 65 percent of global pesticide sales are controlled by six corporations: Monsanto, Bayer, Dow, Dupont,  Syngenta and ChemChina. Those corporations also control over 61 percent of all global seed sales. Monsanto, in particular, has become notorious for lobbying against GMO labels. Essentially, as more evidence comes to the surface that proves how harmful chemical pesticides are, they try harder to convince the government that we don’t have the right to know what’s in our food.

In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently announced they would no longer release results for their glysophate tests. These tests told the public which packaged foods contained traces of glysophate. Considering this chemical has been linked to cancer and other diseases, it would be pertinent for consumers to know that it’s in their cereal … or at least one would think.

While the human population has more than doubled in the past 50 years, the amount of global arable land has only increased by 10 percent. Unfortunately, with the global livestock system taking up 45 percent of arable land, there’s not much more space that we can dedicate to growing fresh produce. That’s where pesticides come in. The requirements for feeding the massive farm animal population, specifically, monocultures for crops such as corn, soy, and wheat, depletes the soil of its nutrients, which both eliminates the biodiversity that would naturally stave off pests and forces farmers to turn to synthetic chemicals. Not only that, pesticides are responsible for wiping out world bee populations and poisoning us when the harmful chemicals in them creep into waterways and marine ecosystems, which impacts both humans and animals.

While fighting against the pesticide menace seems like a daunting task, especially considering the power that the three corporations hocking them hold, this report gives us some peace of mind. Nobody should have to choose between supporting an industry that damages us, the environment, and pollinators. Hopefully, the UN will be able to use this as much-needed leverage against pesticides.

Image source: Fotokostic/Shutterstock