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The Places in America that Use the Most (and Least) Pesticides

The Places in America that Use the Most (and Least) Pesticides

With the recent second verdict where a jury ruled that Roundup weedkiller contributed to a man’s cancer, controversial pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are once again in the news.

These chemicals, particularly the herbicide glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup) have long played a role in American agriculture, but their health risks are only now being understood. As a result, thousands of cancer lawsuits have been filed against Monsanto, the company that invented Roundup, and Monsanto’s new parent company, Bayer AG.

Along with Priceonomics customer WeedKillerCrisis We decided to analyze data to uncover which states in the United States had the most and least exposure to pesticides, herbicides and other agricultural chemicals, with a particular focus on glyphosate, the active ingredient that is in the news right now. We looked at data from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to see which compounds were most popular and which locations had the highest usage levels of these chemicals.

By a significant margin, the most popular herbicide in the United States is glyphosate, which is four times more popular than the second most popular chemical. Not surprisingly, large agricultural states like California, Washington, and Illinois use the most pesticides.

However, some states that use a lot of these chemicals see very little glyphosate usage, while others nearly exclusively use the compound. In California for example, only 6 percent of pesticide usage is glyphosate, while in Montana, 52 percent of such usage is from glyphosate.

Methodology

Before diving into the results, it’s worth spending a moment on the methodology and data source. We looked at data from the Pesticide National Synthesis Project published by the USGS, a division of the Department of the Interior that estimates pesticide, herbicide, and fungicide usage in agricultural operations throughout the 48 continental states.

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