Pick up a handful of soil and it's likely that you'll be holding a greater number of organisms than the population of humans on planet earth.
Subterranean species are like underground citizens that never sleep - bacteria, fungi, and invertebrates are continuously filtering the water, recycling the nutrients, and keeping the earth's temperature in check.
Unfortunately, underneath all the monoculture crops lies a toxic mixture of insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides and according to a journal published by Frontiers in Environmental Science, it is nothing short of a nightmare, reports popular science magazine Scientific Americans.
The study conducted by the researchers at the Center for Biology Diversity, Friends of the Earth and the University of Maryland included 400 published articles, 2800 experiments, encompassed 275 unique species and soil organisms, and 284 different pesticides or pesticide mixtures. It is considered to be one of the most comprehensive and thorough research conducted on the effects of pesticides on soil and it calls for immediate action.
As of right now, the regulators have been ignoring the effects the pesticides have on the earthworms, springtails, beetles, and all the other subterranean species. However, the study's data show that it requires our immediate attention and changes need to be made in the list of 850 pesticide ingredients approved for use in the US
Roughly about 70 percent of the experiments concluded that the pesticides harm organisms that help to keep the soil healthy. However, this detail is not given consideration in the EPA's safety reviews.
Although pesticide-intensive agriculture and pollution are the leading causes of the loss of soil biodiversity in the last decade, pesticide companies have continued to ignore the data unraveled by these researches.
The EPA has also publicly acknowledged that 50 to 100 percent of the agriculturally applied pesticides end up killing vital organisms in the soil, yet the agency carries on conducting their experiments on single test species. One example of the organisms they use to experiment on is the European honeybee, an insect which spends its whole life above the ground in artificial boxes to estimate the risk to all soil organisms.
The use of insects which spend their whole lives away from the soil is a clear indication of how the U.S regulatory system favors the pesticide industries over the well-being of the ecosystem.
With the current flow of trends, pesticide companies have also jumped onto the bandwagon to greenwash their products. While their websites promote soil health by advocating for the reduction of tilling and planting cover tops, it also indirectly promotes the usage of pesticides. When fields aren't tilled, pesticides are used to kill weeds instead. Therefore, increasing the use of pesticides in the long run.
Therefore, the good and the bad cancel each other out and there is no actual progress being made for the sake of the betterment of soil health.
The soil is one of the most biodiverse ecosystems and protecting it is a priority.
For the situation to get better, positive and aggressive steps need to be taken by the EPA to steer away from unsustainable pesticide-intensive agriculture.