Difference between risk and danger
Danger and risk are often confused in the discussion surrounding pesticides. Sometimes the two terms are even used synonymously. That is as incorrect as it is negligent, because dangerous substances do not always present a high risk. By the same token, substances that are not considered to be dangerous can indeed pose a risk. Danger and risk are therefore not identical.
Monday, November 9, 2020
- Risk and danger are often used synonymously.
- Yet the two terms differ in meaning.
- That is crucial to remember in the debate surrounding new technologies.
People tend to completely misjudge risks. Travel is probably the most common example: Many consider air travel far riskier than traveling by car, even though everyone knows that the statistics tell a different story, and every car trip is far more dangerous than flying.
Risk depends on many factors
Back to pesticides: Depending on the product, pesticides can be dangerous, but that is by no means an indication that they pose a high risk. Risk is dependent on many factors, such as how much pesticide is used and for how long, or whether it comes into contact with the environment, and to what extent. Risk is also determined by external factors, such as air humidity or temperature.
The pesticide user has some control over most of these factors. And pesticide use changes depending on these external factors. Many particularly restrictive regulations are, of course, in force in Switzerland to minimize risk. In other words: When used carefully, pesticides pose a low risk to humans and the environment. Or as Paracelsus put it: The dose makes the poison.
Good to Know
‘Danger’ refers to the possibility that an event, object, or substance may cause harm. Thus, an uneven road poses a danger. ‘Risk’ refers to the likelihood that the danger will result in harm. So, for example, a motorcyclist driving on an uneven road risks having an accident. The degree of risk, however, depends on the light conditions, weather, or driving style.
The demand for regional products could hardly be greater. This is shown by a new study by the Zurich School of Business. Consumers even consider regional products to be significantly more sustainable than organic or premium products. To keep up with this trend, it is therefore all the more important to promote modern breeding techniques and plant protection products.
The reduced use of plant protection products is causing much smaller wheat and rapeseed harvests. A study carried out by Swiss Agricultural Research reveals that such crop failures can only be offset by state subsidies. This is neither sustainable nor resource-efficient.
The economic interdependence of the world has increased greatly over the past years and decades. Due to the brisk trade activity between the continents, invasive plant and animal species are also spreading faster and faster. This can lead to serious problems for native vegetation and agriculture. According to the FOEN, the canton of Ticino is particularly affected.