In the developed countries over-production of food has been achieved by using pesticides, agrochemicals, fertilizers, antibiotics and hormones. Governments may have approved the use of some pesticides that are known or suspected of causing a range of problems from cancer to allergies. It was found out that potentially toxic pesticides "bound" with cereals making them impossible to detect, destroy or wash away. Pesticide residues, caused by spray drift and soil contamination, have even been found on samples of organically grown food in the UK. It is now officially stated that there is no such thing as pesticide-free food in the UK.
The first modern pesticide was probably Paris Green, an insecticide for potatoes developed in the 1860s. Twenty years later came Bordeaux Mixture, treating mildew. In the 1930s the organophosphates (used in nerve gases and sheep dips) were first applied as pesticides of crops, followed in 1939 by the first organochlorine pesticide DDT. Between 1960 and 1990, pesticide sales worldwide increased more than 30 fold. USA and many other countries have banned carcinogenic DDT, but the substance is exported to developing countries which use it on products that are later shipped back to developed countries.
The chemical industry produces the equivalent of three kgs of pesticide for every man, woman and child of the world each year. In 1990, almost 25,000 tonnes was used, around 450 grams per person. According to Greenpeace, consumers in northern Europe are estimated to ingest more than 40 different pesticide residues in food and drink each day. The existing food laws in many countries prohibit the inclusion of most of the trace elements into food, but despite these laws considerable quantities of trace elements are brought into food by insecticides.
The existing food laws in many countries prohibit the inclusion of most of the trace elements into food, but despite these laws considerable quantities of trace elements are brought into food by insecticides. In the USA the tolerance levels include highly toxic lead in 16 fruit and vegetable products, arsenic in 26, fluorine in 28, and antimony in 2. The presence of the trace element copper has been admitted in more than a hundred agricultural or horticultural products in the USA; bromide in 138 products including cereals, zinc in 71, and tin in one. In other countries the so-called trace elements are also admitted, with the occasional exception of lead, arsenic, antimony and fluorine.