Over fifty years after Big Yellow Taxi charted, regulations are far tighter for the simple reason that we know a lot more. For almost as long as scientists have been engaged in attempting to increase the yield of crops, products have been superseded, withdrawn, or in some cases banned to make way for new, better and hopefully more environmentally friendly alternatives. Such is progress and the more we know, the more research is needed, it’s true to say!
As an example, in 2018 the European Union (with the UK’s support) banned most uses of neonicotinoids, citing scientific evidence that it was doing lasting damage to populations of insects, especially bees.
Early in January 2021, the UK Government reversed that decision, claiming a specific threat from Yellows virus to the summer sugar beet crop.
However in early March the decision was reversed again as an unseasonably cold winter killed most of the virus-producing aphids before the sugar beet seedlings could be infected.
By itself, this is just a blip. A chain of events like this – reacting to local requirements – regularly happens in many countries.
But the sum is the fact that the amount of potentially harmful or even banned chemicals in the soil is still on the increase. As more stringent regulations on some of these legacy chemicals are introduced worldwide, many more potentially harmful organic compounds face bans and eventually could need to be removed from groundwater.