We hear a lot of negative things about pesticides, but we really don't want to be without them.
Americans love a conspiracy. Some of us believe international secret societies control governments; others that a second gunman on the grassy knoll killed Kennedy; and some insist that high flying jets are applying “chemtrails” of mind-altering chemicals on unsuspecting citizens.
There is even a large contingent of Americans who believe that both the U.S. and British governments knew in advance of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. One camp of kooks swear up and down that a missile hit the Pentagon, not Flight 77, despite people who were right there and saw the plane hit the building. If true, the witnesses have somehow managed to keep their secret close for 12 years, while quietly resisting the temptation to sell publishing rights to a book for a couple of mil.
“It’s all a lie to start a war for oil,” one hare brain on a Web site declared. “You are all cannon fodder for the war machine.”
Yeah. And Elvis is alive and working in a donut shop in south Memphis.
Strange people, but they’re not much different from the ones who claim that biotechnology companies are taking over the world and pesticides are turning male frogs into females and causing children to lose their attention spans. What’s worse, they pass their outrageous claims on to mainstream news organizations, which have plenty of gusto for controversy, but are the investigative equivalents of a ground sloth.
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What we never see is a news show thoughtfully balancing the risks of pesticides with the benefits of pesticides. For example, according to a 1990 study, a complete ban on pesticides would result in a 27 percent reduction in corn, wheat and soybean production and a 73 percent reduction in crop surpluses. It would eliminate 132,000 jobs, increase price instability, reduce U.S. food aid programs and increase worldwide hunger. It would increase soil erosion by 360 billion pounds and increase fuel use by 337 million gallons.
For all the pesticide bashers out there, here’s the bottom line. If you ban all pesticides – including herbicides, insecticides and fungicides – you would have to extend the ban to home use too. So, if you want ants in your honey, roaches in your kitchen, weeds in your lawn, mold in your bathroom, fleas and ticks on your pets, spots on your apples and pears and all round higher costs for everything, by all means go organic.
And when all that pestilence finally drives you out of house and home, take a drive up to Memphis – you and Elvis can commiserate over coffee and donuts.