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Tufts OpenCourseware
Authors: Kathleen Merrigan, Ph.D., William Lockeretz, Ph.D.


  • Pearce, D., and Tinch, R. The true price of pesticides. In: Vorley, W., and Keeney, D. (eds.) Bugs in the System. 1998.

Key Questions

The True Price of Pesticides

  • What is the difference between financial costs and social costs of pesticides?
  • What are the reasons for market failure which might lead to increased pollution from pesticides?
  • What are the alternatives to market failure?
  • Why do the authors feel that the polluter pays principle is complex?
  • What is the idea behind environmental taxes?
  • What is the difference between environmental taxes and regulatory mechanisms in reducing pesticide related pollution?
  • Comparing both of the above stated policy instruments, the authors declare “ The same extent of pollution reduction is achieved more cheaply under a tax system” ( p. 54). Does this always hold true?
  • What does the term “double dividend” of environmental taxes refer to?
  • Why is the task of setting up environmental taxes a complex one?
  • Why do the authors feel that different pesticides should be taxed at differing levels?
  • What are some of the examples of governmental failure in regulating pesticide related pollution?
  • What are the two approaches to environmental evaluation?
  • Why is considering only the total active ingredient while measuring adverse effects of pesticides inefficient?
  • What is the generally quoted BC ratio for pesticide use in American agriculture?
  • Why do the authors emphasize calculating marginal effects of pesticide reduction, rather than using alternative scenarios, in order to get an idea of the costs and benefits of pesticide reduction?
  • Can pesticide related human health hazards be considered completely as externalities?
  • Through which channel is the human intake of pesticides the maximum?
  • Is resistance development of pests to pesticide usage an internal / external cost?
  • How sensitive is the American public to pesticide related risks? What are the reasons prompting such a reaction?
  • How is the value of statistical life (VOSL) calculated?
  • How does the approach of considering ‘willingness to pay’ compare with that of ‘willingness to accept’ in calculating the VOSL?
  • What does assessing effect of pesticides on biodiversity involve?
  • What factors hinder wider adoption of IPM?