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Cropduster flying over an irrigation canal photo. Credit: Pedro Ramirez, Jr, USFWS.
Pesticides are effective in removing insects, weeds and other unwanted pests. Each year over 2 billion pounds of pesticides are used, the majority for agricultural purposes. We, as consumers, benefit by improved quality and quantity of agricultural products. However, the use of pesticides is not without risk to livestock, pets, wildlife and their habitat as well as to people, particularly if the pesticide is not used correctly. Pesticides that harm or kill animals or plants not considered pest species are termed non-targets.
When pesticides are used incorrectly, numerous non-target species of animals are killed; even endangered species are affected. Pesticides can greatly impact many species of migratory birds and the impact to aquatic systems can be tremendous. Pesticides also can kill valuable insects that serve pollinators, such as bees, or those that serve as a food source for many animals.
Applicators of pesticides are ultimately responsible for reducing harm to non-target animals. In most cases, if label instructions are followed carefully, pesticide use can be compatible with wildlife and the environment. Today many wildlife species such as the bald eagle continue to survive because of the progressive steps taken in reducing pesticide effects.