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Food Additives Use in Agriculture in the United States


Today, agriculture makes significant contributions to the development of the U.S. economy. Many industries are closely related to this field, including food sales, forestry, fishing, and manufacturing. The connection between agriculture and the chemical industry results in the creation of a new agrichemical industry with higher-yielding seeds, specific chemical regimes, and machines (Carlisle et al., 2019; Johnson, 2016).

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For a long period, ingredients, including chemical food additives, perform useful functions in farming. They protect crops against pests, predict diseases, kill undesired plants, and enhance other qualities. Still, many concerns about the impact of food additives in agriculture are raised. To control the quality of farming products, food additive regulations are established. Health changes and environmental issues challenge the significance of agrichemical interventions.

Despite the existing pros and cons of chemical food additives, many states cannot ignore this form of farming as this sphere helps people survive and focus on the promotion of sustainable farming as a solution. Food additives in agriculture become a debatable issue because their benefits like the protection of crops and soil do not always prevail over such shortages like increased allergies, health issues, and environmental concerns.

Chemical Inputs in the American Agriculture Industry

Agriculture is one of the major industries in the United States, the purpose of which is to export food, ensure a safe food supply, and promote survival by satisfying hunger and thirst needs. In this field, it is not enough to cultivate the soil, control the results of harvest, and make sure that corns and other related products become available to citizens. As well as many other spheres, the agricultural sector undergoes considerable changes regularly, and the process of industrialization is one of them. Industrialized countries raise the chemical burden on agriculture and other natural ecosystems (Nicolopoulou-Stamati et al., 2016).

In addition to a number of innovative ideas and reforms, food production is improved by means of sustainable practices and concepts. However, many concerns and questions emerge among farmers, including the difficulty of entering the industry and staying competitive (Carlisle et al., 2019). Therefore, the application of chemical inputs is determined as one of the best ways to achieve positive results, reduce time and efforts in farming, and increase the number of workers without additional financial or organizational losses.

Competitions between farmers turn out to be a critical aspect for consideration in the agriculture industry. As a result, new methods of work approaches to improve the quality of soil and products, and interventions to save time and gain profits are developed. Nowadays, many farmers consider food additives as one of the possible means to protect crops and improve the quality and quantity of farming products. Food additives are substances that can be added to the soil or directly to products for a number of purposes. There are many types of chemical inputs to increase agricultural production and productivity (Wilson & Tisdell, 2001).

In addition to a number of positive expectations and benefits, some researchers admit the presence of the negative impact of pesticides on the soil and the environment like the destruction of predators of pests (Wilson & Tisdell, 2001). To keep a balance, another field, known as organic agriculture, with limited or no application of chemicals is promoted (Rehber et al., 2018). Its major benefit is a friendly attitude toward humans and the environment, even if some fertilizers or pesticides cannot be avoided.

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At the same time, plants may grow without additives, but such threats as environmental stress, disease growth, and unstable crops play a significant role. According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration ( 2018), food additives are substances that can be reasonably (directly or indirectly) added to food and become components that affect the characteristics of the chosen products. In farming, there are many pests and other threats that prevent successful growing and cultivating.

For example, weeds spoil the soil, and herbicides are used to kill this threat and predict its emergence. Bugs are the inhabitants of the planet, and their harms to agricultural products are not always easy to control. Therefore, farmers apply insecticides to their plants at different stages of development to reduce the destruction. On the one hand, it is possible to reduce the use of these chemicals in farming. On the other hand, the cost of additive-free products can be higher due to the number of waste caused by outside harms.

The debates between the worth of organic agriculture and chemical inputs continue growing due to the importance of farming that is identified by basic human needs to live, eat, and drink. When no industrial or manufacturing progress was made, people had to find new sources of food production and feed themselves, promoting population growth and prosperity. Farming has always been a beneficial area of human life, and today, it has become a part of a family business. According to the reports made by Farm Bureau (2019), about 2 million farms are in the United States, and 98% of these farms are based on family partnerships or corporations (about 2% of the population).

For example, one farm can feed about 166 people annually (Farm Bureau, 2019). However, it is expected that this number could be increased by approximately 70% by 2050 (Farm Bureau, 2019). However, in the face of the possibility of environmental, health, and rural economic crises, the future of U.S. agriculture is challenged, and social values continue changing (Carlisle et al., 2019). Despite the fact that farmers are successful in producing food, unpredictable problems should not be neglected.

American society uses agriculture for different purposes, including the development of trade relationships and employment opportunities. Although farming supports local citizens, one should admit that many food products are sent for export to support the American economy. Farm Bureau (2019) states that farming activities account for approximately 1% of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). Food processing industries, including agriculture, hold leading positions in the global economy (Amit et al., 2017). To meet financial benefits, the use of pesticides and other chemical inputs remains an option.

There are different types of chemical additives, also known as pesticides, that can be applied to farming crops, and some of them are herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides. According to Fantke et al. (2012), pesticides are ubiquitous elements of agricultural society, the purpose of which is to promote a high crop yield. However, the use of pesticides in one sector could change the work of another sector (Forget, 1993). Herbicides focus on killing weeds and other undesirable plants that prevent crops’ growth (Wilson & Tisdell, 2001). Fungicides are used to control the spread of fungi on the land. Insecticides deal with dangerous insects that may transmit viruses or bacteria. Each type of pesticide has its specific function, but an overall impact is characterized by specific benefits and shortages for the environment, human health, and the U.S. economy.

Benefits of Chemical Additives in Agriculture

The use of chemical inputs in agriculture is explained by the presence of multiple benefits for farmers in the chosen area of business. The consumption of pesticides continues growing (about 3 million metric tons, with 85% being used in agriculture) (Aspelin, as cited in Wilson & Tisdell, 2001). To work with pesticides, farmers have to wear special protective clothing and equipment to avoid danger and harmful effects (Paumgartten, 2020). The application of these devices and regulations of the work with chemicals help to protect humans, as well as pesticides, help to protect the yield, so the balance between dangerous and helpful aspects is kept.

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The destruction of unsafe elements of nature has its price, and it is necessary to consider the benefits of agriculture production and the possibility to improve the quality of farming products. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency aims at registering and controlling the use of chemical substances in agriculture, so the exposure to harmful elements is limited (Gilden et al., 2010). Almost every human activity is dangerous, and if there is a chance to increase food production and the quality of productions, it has to be used.

Chemical fertilizers support plant growth and reduce the number of serious health problems. The worth of pesticides lies in the possibility to control the transmission of diseases from pests to humans and animals (Forget, 1993). In the middle of the 20th century, the first cases of typhus delousing in Algiers and malaria eradication in Sardinia and India with the help of dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) pesticide were reported (Forget, 1993).

Improvements in the yield of maize, corn, and potatoes are observed if an appropriate amount of chemicals is sprayed over fields (Carvalho, 2006). In tropical regions, the number of pests is more frequent compared to industrialized areas, and pesticides have to be applied in massive amounts to predicting the spread of infections (Pimentel, 2009). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other national organizations enhance pesticide assessments and develop guidelines to minimize threats of pesticides (Gilden et al., 2010). People are not able to control the movements of pests and predict their final destination. Therefore, they have nothing to do but protect what they can and reduce threats of constantly moving insects and bacteria they could carry.

Being aware of potential threats of chemical agriculture, farmers continue using food additives due to existing financial benefits and appropriate economic conditions. One of the reasons for using pesticides in agriculture is their affordable price and easy access. For example, organic agriculture is frequently recommended to replace pesticides with less harmful substances, but its premium price and limited access prevent farmers from using it regularly (Connor, 2008).

Organic agriculture movements are organized to support this safe idea, but due to fewer quantities of nutrients, this intervention is hard to reach. Therefore, farmers continue choosing pesticides to save money, increase supply, and reduce marker prices, which is beneficial for the population (Wilson & Tisdell, 2001). As a result, even the opponents of chemical pesticides have to adopt chemical inputs on their reservations to stay competitive and gain profits.

Besides, as has already been mentioned, changes in the agriculture industry provoke changes in other fields, and the chemical industry is one of them. For example, chemical fertilizers are created with the help of a fixed nitrogen technology that was firstly introduced in the 1920s (Johnson. 2016). The development of such technologies involved many people around the globe. They improved their skills, made achievements, and discovered new opportunities. As soon as the use of food additives is decreased, negative changes and employment shortages may be observed in other industries. The use of food additives in agriculture is beneficial for many interested parties from the point of view of economic and organizational contributions.

Harms of Chemical Food Additives in Farming

When a person receives a good-looking food product, not much attention is paid to the way this product takes to reach a consumer. There are many studies about how harmful and dangerous the use of food additives in agriculture could be, and some of them are closely related to the health conditions of consumers and farmers and environmental issues. On the one hand, food additives may directly influence the quality of life of their users, who put their financial benefits over health. On the other hand, there are consumers who are not aware of the impact of pesticides and other chemicals used in farming but who buy these products, believing they are healthy and less dangerous.

Long-term exposure to chemicals used in farming increases health risks, including mental health disorders, behavioral changes, and chronic diseases. The opponents of pesticides and other inputs in agriculture address the results of chemical risk assessments (Fantke et al., 2012). In many developing countries, pesticide poisoning turns out to be a serious public health problem, with more than 200,000 deaths annually (Paumgartten, 2020; Wilson & Tisdell, 2001).

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Farmers who are frequently exposed to pesticides observe adverse effects on their central nervous and reproduction systems (Carvalho, 2006). There are many endocrine-disrupting and diethylstilbestrol chemicals that influence metabolism and other physiological processes (Gilden et al., 2010). If people live close to the areas where chemical inputs are applied, they are at risk of being predisposed to breast cancer, colon cancer, skin melanoma, or non-Hodgkin lymphoma (Paumgartten, 2020). Behavioral changes due to the development of depressive symptoms are also observed in farmers, but Paumgartten (2020) recommends considering the impact of other triggers like alcohol use, tobacco smoking, and family history. In general, the immune system weakens due to farming chemicals, and the possibility of other diseases cannot be ignored.

Food crop consumption is another threat associated with pesticides and their impact on human health. As well as farmers who are directly exposed to the chemicals, humans who eat pesticide-grown food report on colon cancer rising incidence, but again, Paumgartten (2020) that people with this disease may not be all those who are exposed to pesticides. There is a risk that children consume more food with pesticides without appropriate control, which influences the work of their brain and overall development (Pimentel, 2009). In modern markets, controllers are able to detect the level of pesticide residues in food. Pimentel (2009) shares the results by Groth et al. study that in 8 fruits and 12 vegetables, about 73% of pesticide residues were found, and 37 different types of pesticides were discovered in apples. Instead of fighting against viruses and bacteria that are dangerous for humans, they create additional risks that challenge health.

Environmental harms like soil degradation, irrigation, and waste turn out to be a part of additive-related problems in American farming. Boxall et al. (2009) explain increased risks of chemicals and changes of the nature of pathogens due to climate change. In addition to their protective properties, pesticides are toxic to a host of other damaged plants, birds, and insects that bring benefits to the yield (Wilson & Tisdell, 2001).

Contamination of water happens due to runoffs from treated soil, and groundwater pollution emerges, promoting the presence of pesticide residues in the wells (Pimentel, 2009). Finally, adverse effects on the soil and its fertility are commonly investigated because chemical inputs can easily find their way into the soil (Wilson & Tisdell, 2001). The necessity to spray chemicals in farming causes air pollution, causing suffering among plants and other natural resources that should not be chemically treated.

Research Significance

In general, this project aims at discussing the reasons for using food additives in U.S. agriculture on the basis of its effects on people and the environment. The development of organic agriculture proves the possibility to avoid using pesticides and other chemicals in farming processes, but this method cannot increase productivity in the chosen industry (Connor, 2008). In addition, the consumption of organic food can reduce the risk of health complications (allergies or weight problems) connected to the chemical treatment of plants (Mie et al., 2017).

Therefore, answering the question about the possibility of growing products, many researchers and healthcare organizations may share their positive attitudes, focusing on the harms and threats associated with pesticides. Such factors as toxicity, contamination, and unpredicted health changes question the necessity of additives in food growth.

In addition to understanding the types, benefits, and threats of chemicals in farming crops on the American land, this research is a good opportunity to learn what people expect from farming in their states. Statistics, reports, and studies help to identify new methods to save the yield and keep agriculture in benefits without harming nature. However, at this moment, the use of pesticides is an obligatory step, and its benefits frequently prevail over its harms. Although people are exposed to toxins directly, they can use special clothing and equipment to protect themselves (Paumgartten, 2020).

The fact that pesticides destroy the soil and harm water and air should be re-evaluated because of the presence of other hazards to these natural resources. Many other industries damage the environment, and it is necessary to continue the investigation to compare the outcomes of pesticide-treated farming products with the outcomes of other essential products like toilet paper, pens, dishes, or cars.


As well as any human activity, the use of chemical food additives in farming has significant benefits and shortages either for society or for the environment. People expect to have safe farming products that are free from chemicals or other additives, but modern agriculture considers it to be a critical element for business development. Organic agriculture aims at reducing the use of food additives in farming to predict chemical harm.

However, its economic benefits are lower, comparing to those where chemical inputs are present. It is not enough to stop using pesticides just to protect the environment or make sure no health problems occur because some many other triggers and harms cannot be solved. Farmers have to learn regulations and standards to avoid negative outcomes and predict pesticide threats. Ordinary users should be informed about the peculiarities of consumption and the conditions under which plants are grown. The distribution of information, preventive measures, and following the instructions are the best means to avoid additive-related problems without challenging American agriculture and farming profits.


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