Pesticides: History

Authored by: Edward H. Smith , George Kennedy

Encyclopedia of Environmental Management

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  December  2012

Print ISBN: 9781439829271
eBook ISBN: 9781351235860
Adobe ISBN:

10.1081/E-EEM-100001024

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Abstract

Pests—insects, nematodes, plant pathogens, and weeds—destroy more than 40% of the world’s food, forage, and fiber production. The struggle, pests versus people, grows ever more intense as population increases, arable land decreases, and human intervention disturbs biotic relationships on a global scale. Pesticides play a vital role in the struggle, but their use has not been without adverse ecological impacts and risk to the safety of those who apply them and those who consume treated products. This brief essay recounts the human experience with pesticides from the dawn of history to the dawn of the 21st century. It is the story of trial and error, old problems, and new lessons on nature’s response to insult by ingenious synthetic molecules. It chronicles the intellectual probing and public debate of problems associated with the overreliance on chemical control that developed following World War II and led to adoption of integrated pest management (IPM) as an ecologically viable paradigm for crop protection. The success or failure of pest control programs may well hold the key to world order as the six billion peoples of the world compete for their place in the sun.

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