UC Davis Agricultural and Resource Economics

Hanlin Wei, University of California, Davis

The Environmental Impacts of Pesticide Use in Conventional and Organic Agriculture: Evidence from California

Date and Location

Thursday, January 14, 2021, 4:10 PM - 5:30 PM
Online Meeting, Zoom


Organic farming is an icon of sustainable agriculture. Using the California Pesticide Use Report (PUR) database and a fixed effects model, I examine the environmental impacts of pesticide use in fields treated with conventional and organic pesticide programs. I find that pesticides used in organic production reduced the negative environmental impacts to surface water, groundwater, soil, air, and pollinators compared to pesticides used in conventional production. However, the difference in the environmental impacts of pesticide use between the two production systems has declined in multiple dimensions. The environmental benefit of adopting organic production systems may be less than is commonly perceived. Two additional regression results regard farm acreage and farming experience, and environmental impacts of pesticide programs. Farmers with more acreage are associated with the use of pesticides that have larger environmental impacts. More experienced farmers are associated with the use of pesticides that have more impact to surface water and groundwater, and less impact to soil, air, and pollinators. Pesticide use and environmental impacts in conventional agriculture remained stable in our study period regardless of changes in regulations and the use for active ingredients such as organophosphates, pyrethroid, and methyl bromide.

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