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Public Registers Concern about Pesticide Contamination

(Beyond Pesticides, June 3, 2009) A recent public opinion survey conducted in Oregon finds that the public generally supports agriculture, but is not as approving of pesticide and fertilizer use. The survey, which focuses on important issues facing Oregon farmers and ranchers, shows that Oregonians are troubled by the impact of pesticides and fertilizers on water quality and human health.

The survey shows Oregonians give the highest ratings for irrigation and soil conservation practices. However, 77 percent of Oregonians say they are either very or somewhat concerned about the impact of agricultural use of pesticides and fertilizers on water quality and human health. Respondents are also very or somewhat concerned about the impact of pesticides and fertilizers on food safety (74 percent), wildlife habitat (71 percent), air quality (68 percent), and soil conservation (60 percent). Women and Portland metro area residents are consistently more concerned than other groups.

One survey question asked if farmers could still feed the world using only organic practices. About 44 percent believe that is possible. Interestingly, the Oregon Department of Agriculture believes that this finding characterizes a disconnect between public opinion and agriculture’s need for pesticides.

Many respondents are uncertain about government regulation of agriculture. The survey shows 53 percent believe regulations are about right or too strong, but a third are not sure. Many want stronger regulations for food processing – not surprising considering recent high profile food safety issues. The highest percentage of respondents (42 percent) believes regulations protecting drinking water quality and protecting streams and rivers are not strong enough.

In 2008, a similar survey gauged Oregonians’ opinions of production agriculture on a wider scale. That led to a focused follow-up survey conducted this spring in two areas of concern and opportunity- water and pesticides. The latest snapshot is the result of a statewide telephone survey of 500 Oregonians completed on behalf of the Agri-Business Council of Oregon with the financial support of numerous agriculture organizations.

Source: Oregon Live


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