A surge in the use of fungicides is bringing higher crop yields; but experts warn that there is not enough monitoring of the emerging fungicide contamination of streams -- and that not enough is known about the health consequences.
"Glenn Waller's 100 acres of soybeans in Washington County, Georgia, are the highest yielding in the state. But the 'Mr. Efficiency' award winner is worried about rust. Soybean farmers in the Southeast survived a bout with the crop-destroying fungus in 2005 by using pesticides to halt its spread. But Waller remains worried about a rust resurgence. 'I'm afraid we're going to kind of put it on the back burner and it's going to jump back up and get us,” he said. Waller, who has farmed for 51 years, increasingly has turned to fungicides to ward off pests and increase his crop yields. Farmers around the country are doing the same, causing an unprecedented surge in fungicide use. But as widespread contamination of waterways near these farms emerges, experts warn that there is inadequate environmental monitoring and information on the chemicals' safety. 'It's concerning,' said Jason Belden, an environmental toxicologist at Oklahoma State University. 'We have limited toxicological data for a lot of these compounds.'"