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We know where the shoe pinches: a case study-based analysis of the social benefits of pesticides

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Most published material relating to pesticides focuses on negative effects. Previous work by the authors has linked pesticides to a range of benefits, but not to wider social outcomes. In this study, a case is made that, if used properly, pesticides can result in a range of social benefits. To characterize social outcomes for individuals, families, other groups and communities, the authors undertook the development of an analytical framework to categorize the potential outcomes, a review of the literature and an examination of specific cases in production systems using pesticides. Four categories of use were explored: livestock disease vector control, subsistence farming, transition from subsistence to cash crop farming and commercial farming. The last two showed very strong positive associations, with benefits being manifested in increased income and reduced risk, plus the ability to hire labour and provide employment opportunities. Other outcomes were the evolution of more complex community facilities, such as schools and shops, and improved health. One unexpected finding was that there appeared to be an association between the use of pesticides and cooperation (that is, farmers working together in purchasing, spraying and/or marketing). Many of the case studies supported the hypothesis that farm businesses using pesticides were associated with the development of administrative skills that spilled over into other aspects of people's lives. Although the sample was small and there was a risk of an inherent bias towards those with a vested interest in maintaining their current farming systems (including pesticides), these case studies support the authors' hypothesis that there are social benefits from pesticide use.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2010

More about this publication?
  • Outlook on Agriculture is an international peer-review journal devoted to agricultural science, policy and strategy. The journal is published quarterly and provides analysis, reviews and commentary for an international and interdisciplinary readership. Special attention is paid to agricultural policy, international trade in the agricultural sector, strategic developments in food production, the role of agriculture in social and economic development, agriculture in developing countries, and environmental issues. Readers include academics, policy makers and practitioners. For more details go to
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