CyberDodo and Pesticides (1-51)
Impossible to say no in reply to this question! If the sustainable utilisation of an appropriate quantity of very specific products can be justified, the uncontrolled application of tens of thousands of chemical substances in nature can be stopped and the stakes are vital as well as urgent.
Because pesticides are found everywhere and accumulate every time they are used! In the water, the air, the earth and plants, animals as well as human beings. At all phases of life, it has serious consequences, for example:
-Water and earth are polluted in the long run
-Parasites have developed a worrying resistance, which has forced the use of increased dosages or of increasingly powerful substances
-Animals are right at the forefront of exposure to the long-term pollution of their environment
-Amongst human beings, it causes fœtal deformities, retarded development, spontaneous miscarriages, reduced fertility, diseases such as allergies and cancers, a weakening of the immune system, etc.
It is essential to understand that pesticides applied throughout the ecosystem will not just stay there for a long time, but their overuse has also created a phenomenon called ‘bio-accumulation’.
Bio-accumulation is particularly dangerous for consumers at the end of the food chain. How does this happen? A pesticide is applied, it pollutes the water around it, in which micro-organisms are found and these are contaminates in turn. Fish that live in polluted water eat them then they are caught and land up on our plates.
This summarised example of a food chain (longer than it is in reality) shows how the quantities of pesticides are concentrated at each stage and increase the levels of contamination in the predator at the end of the chain.
Could we describe pesticides as misfired ‘weapons’?
Why use the awful word ‘weapons’? Very simply because a not insignificant part of the products applied in our agricultural fields is of military origin! And to call them weapons is a misnomer (and makes no sense anyway) since, on average, more than 90% of the treatment does not actually impact the ‘pest’ against which it is used.
Are new, less dangerous products the solution?
The solution consists of 2 words ‘Sustainable Agriculture’ or, in other words, cultivating without exhausting or destroying the environment, because future generations will also need to eat.
The intensive overuse of pesticides by too many countries has contributed to pollution, the loss of biodiversity and the selection of a more greatly reduced number of cultivated species, not forgetting the serious hazards to the health of man.
Before concluding, remember that Nature still has traces of DDT (Insecticide mainly used from 1940 to the 70s/80s) in countries which have in fact banned its use for decades....
To see the cartoon on pesticides, click here
To see the game on pesticides, click here
To do the quiz, click here
© CyberDodo Productions Ltd.
In response to this question, let us first look at the actual word pesticides: peste (from the Latin ‘pestis’), which describes something harmful and cide (from the Latin ‘cadere’), which means ‘to kill’. Therefore they are used to eliminate serious threats, but what exactly are we talking about here?
Since man first became interested in agriculture, he had to face countless difficulties so as to get good harvests, notably: insects, mushrooms, weeds, etc.
Pesticides indeed originated because it was vital for our ancestors to protect themselves against the risk of food deprivation caused by pests (as we call them today) which attacked their crops.
This need was totally legitimate, even more so if we were to consider the very low environmental footprint mankind had at that stage.
What is a pesticide?
Directly following on the above paragraph, pesticides are a description of all substances used to fight against pests that attack crops. Insecticides, herbicides, parasiticides and fungicides all fall within this description.
How has the usage of pesticides evolved?
As new discoveries were made over time, and also as a result of what we usually refer to as ‘development’. From one generation to another, man enriched his knowledge and extended the range of resources at his disposal to fight against his enemies.
We will then later see that the term ‘enemies’ is by no means a mistake...
Several thousands of years ago, man already knew how to use arsenic and sulphur, and then other substances, all of natural origin, were added to this arsenal over the centuries.
But the major turning point in the utilisation of pesticides occurred at the beginning of the 20th century when studies were conducted particularly on chemical weapons for use in the first world war (1914-1918). After that, using chemicals, it was possible to synthesise molecules and create compounds without the use of natural resources.
From that time, and with the help of this fledgling science, new pesticides were constantly being developed until quantities rose to the shocking figure of more than 100,000 commercial products sold and particularly distributed throughout the world, with potentially tragic consequences...