Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)

Review article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Pesticide use in banana plantations in Costa Rica-A review of environmental and human exposure, effects and potential risks

Bruehl, Carsten A.; Andres, Maria Arias; Echeverria-Saenz, Silvia; Bundschuh, Mirco; Knabel, Anja; Mena, Freylan; Petschick, Lara L.; Ruepert, Clemens; Stehle, Sebastian


Biodiversity is declining on a global scale. Especially tropical ecosystems, containing most of the planetary biodiversity, are at risk. Agricultural monocrop systems contribute to this decline as they replace original hab-itats and depend on extensive use of synthetic pesticides that impact ecosystems. In this review we use large-scale banana production for export purposes in Costa Rica as an example for pesticide impacts, as it is in production for over a century and uses pesticides extensively for more than fifty years. We summarise the research on pesticide exposure, effects and risks for aquatic and terrestrial environment, as well as for human health. We show that exposure to pesticides is high and relatively well-studied for aquatic systems and humans, but hardly any data are available for the terrestrial compartment including adjacent non target ecosystems such as rainforest fragments. Ecological effects are demonstrated on an organismic level for various aquatic species and processes but are not available at the population and community level. For human health studies exposure evaluation is crucial and recognised effects include various types of cancer and neurobiological dysfunctions particularly in children. With the many synthetic pesticides involved in banana production, the focus on insecticides, revealing highest aquatic risks, and partly herbicides should be extended to fungicides, which are applied aerially over larger areas. The risk assessment and regulation of pesticides so far relies on temperate models and test species and is therefore likely underestimating the risk of pesticide use in tropical ecosystems, with crops such as banana. We highlight further research approaches to improve risk assessment and, in parallel, urge to follow other strategies to reduce pesticides use and especially hazardous substances.


Tropical; Pesticide; Environment; Rainforest; Terrestrial; Aquatic

Published in

Environment International
2023, Volume: 174, article number: 107877Publisher: PERGAMON-ELSEVIER SCIENCE LTD

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG3 Good health and well-being
    SDG15 Life on land

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences

    Publication identifier


    Permanent link to this page (URI)