Pesticides affect the environment by leaching into soils and waterways, killing insects, and depleting bird and fish populations.
Recent findings suggest that 41% of insect species are faced with extinction, and the top two reasons implicated are habitat loss and pollution from pesticides. These statistics are extremely worrying, not least because insects are vitally important as food for other wildlife, and as crop pollinators. 75% of global crop types rely on animal pollination. In the UK, farmland biodiversity continues to decline, with bird populations more than halving since 1970 and arable wildflowers becoming one of the most threatened groups of plants in the UK. Changes in agricultural practices, including increased use of pesticides, have been the leading cause of this decline.
As well as impacting the abundance of pollinators and beneficial predatory insects, pesticides pollute water courses and reduce soil quality. Earthworm abundance (vital for maintaining soil health and ensuring fertile soils for food production) is falling and pesticides are known to impact earthworm reproduction. Extensive use of pesticides is not conducive to sustainable farming.