Pesticide Risk and Benefit Assessment

  • Birtley, Robin D.N. (Zeneca Agrochemicals)
  • Published : 1993.12.30


The benefits of pesticides in improving the food quantity and quality requirements for an increasing world population are significant, and they can be described in agronomic, economic and social terms. The risks are assessed from the hazards which are likely to occur in practice ; the hazards are defined by the toxicity of the pesticide to non-target organisms at various exposure levels. There are ways of reducing the risks (mainly by reducing exposure in practice) and improving the benefits of pesticides ; these are known as risk management and benefit management respectively. The overall risk-benefit assessment is facilitated if each component can be expressed in financial terms, but it must be made nationally or locally on a sound technical basis against the prevailing agronomic, socio-economic and political circumstances. Paraquat is used to illustrate the risk-benefit assessment process in general terms, and the conclusion is that the benefits greatly outweigh the risks. It is important to keep the risks of pesticides in perspective with those associated with other naturally occurring chemicals in our diet and with other everyday aspects of life. In an overall context, the pesticide risk is small.