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Pesticide Treadmill

Last updated: December 20, 2021

What Does Pesticide Treadmill Mean?

The pesticide treadmill refers to a condition in which the use of pesticides results in a need for continuous application of pesticides, sometimes in increasingly greater concentrations.

Safeopedia Explains Pesticide Treadmill

Insects can gradually develop a resistance to the pesticide used to control them. When this happens, another pesticide needs to be introduced or the concentration of the current pesticide needs to be increased. Once the insects develop a resistance to this new form of control, another pesticide must be introduced.

This process is characterized as a treadmill, since the applications of pesticides is not a one-time or occasional pest control method. Rather, it results in a repeated and routine application of these products.

Characteristics of the Pesticide Treadmill

The pesticide treadmill is characterized by pesticide overuse by applying pesticides frequently, using high dosages, and the use of a limited range of active ingredients. This decreases the effectiveness of the pesticide, allowing pests to develop resistance to the chemicals.

The pesticide treadmill is most clearly seen in agricultural operations where farmers become unable to grow crops without implementing seasonal pest-control programs.

The pesticide treadmill is partly responsibel for the development of superbugs and superweeds. These superpests force farmers to spend more on pesticides to balance their crop losses.

Pesticide Resistance in Insects

Pesticides are known to kill pests; however, no pesticide is 100% effective. Insecticides kill insects by interrupting their physiological or biochemical processes such as attacking the nervous, hormonal, or digestive system.

Given the limited effectiveness of pesticides, there will often be insects within the same species that are not vulnerable to its effects. If only two insects in a pest population are immune to it, they have the potential to bread offpsring that all have the same pesticide resistance. Soon, this resistant strain of the species will dominate the area.

Laws Governing Pesticides

The main authority to register and regulate pesticides is held by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The following federal laws authorize the agency’s oversight:

  • The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act allows the EPA to register pesticides using risk/benefit standards
  • The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act aims to increase protection for children and infants, including setting tolerances
  • The Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 (FQPA) amends previous laws by establishing a single safety standard for tolerances
  • The Endangered Species Act of 1973 requires that pesticides that will harm endangered species will not be registered
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