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Doing a world of good: Benefits of pesticides

Yeah, I know anything related to chemicals and agriculture is considered Evil Empire stuff by most of the media and a good percentage of the general public.

But since you can bet you won't see it reported in the metropolitan dailies or on the network news, let's do a little preaching to the choir and make note of some of the comments at a recent Washington conference, “Doing a World of Good.”

Sponsored by CropLife America (formerly the American Crop Protection Association), which represents companies that produce, sell, and distribute crop protection/biotechnology products used by U.S. farmers, and RISE (Responsibility for a Sound Environment), the national association representing manufacturers, formulators, distributors, and other industry leaders involved with pesticide products for non-food/fiber applications, the conference focused on the benefits that pesticides and crop technology provide in a modern world.

Without herbicides, the most widely-used class of pesticides in the United States, crop production and yields would drop, pristine habitat would have to be plowed under to accommodate more crop acres, and the additional cultivation would result in more soil erosion, said Leonard Gianessi of the National Center for Food & Ag Policy.

“Ultimately, the United States would become dependent on imports — meaning the end of a viable U.S. crop market — and consumers would be forced to pay higher prices for less-abundant, less-nutritious food.”

The implications of U.S. agriculture not using herbicides are far-reaching, Gianessi said, citing USDA estimates of major production cuts: cotton as much as 27 percent; rice, 37 percent; tomatoes, 36 percent, etc.

His research demonstrates, he said, that herbicides “provide more-effective, cheaper control of weeds, with less crop damage, than non-chemical alternatives.” Herbicide use has “contributed substantially to increased crop production,” while alternative measures would pose “environmental and safety risks.” The full study, “Benefits of Pesticides in U.S. Crop Production,” including data on insecticides and fungicides will be available this fall.

Also on the program was George McGovern, former senator, presidential candidate, and retired U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, who credited agriculture's “Green Revolution” — the application of science to farming — with keeping 12 million square miles of land from being plowed under for crops, “allowing us to save more land for Mother Nature.”

McGovern joined Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug and Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore April 30 as initial co-signers of a “Declaration in support of protecting nature with high-yield farming and forestry.”

University of Mississippi Medical Center entomologist Jerome Goddard noted that pesticides also represent a valuable public health resource, protecting people from debilitating, disfiguring, and often fatal diseases transmitted by insects such as mosquitoes and ticks.

The conference will “serve as a beginning of how our industry will continue to see and promote itself from this day forward,” said Jay Vroom, president of Crop Life America.


TAGS: Management
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