The "affordable food" deception : how the real costs of pesticides are hidden, and food justice is being obstructed

Clausing, Peter and Garvey, Brian; Serpa, Sandro and Kelly, Diann, eds. (2023) The "affordable food" deception : how the real costs of pesticides are hidden, and food justice is being obstructed. In: Social Activism - New Challenges in a (Dis)connected World. Infotech, [SI]. ISBN 9781837698790 (

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Cheapening labor is essential for firm competitiveness and profitability in a capitalist economy and, for the labor force to be constantly renewed, labor needs to eat cheaply. The widespread use of pesticides is a favored means to make food production more "cost-effective." This is possible, however, only because a considerable part of the cost of pesticides is socialized. Our narrative review is based on research of available literature and publicly available statistics. The continued externalization of risk includes avoidance of the cost of regulatory measures and of the considerable health and environmental costs that are instead paid by public tax monies and health insurance for example. Even conservative estimates indicate hidden costs some two to three times higher than the global annual sales of pesticides (currently ca. $60 billion), while reduced "healthy life expectancy" of farmers and the general population remain a hallmark of pesticide use. This chapter, following an interrogation of the sectoral production statistics and of the costs involved in regulation and human harm, contends that pesticides impose substantial public costs that are belied by the agrochemical industry mantra of cheap food and the avowed necessity of pesticides to feed the world and its workers.