Pesticides: Feeding The World Essay

2928 words - 12 pages

Pesticides: Feeding the World

Every day, new worries arise concerning over-population and the future of earth. People are afraid of starvation and endemic diseases. The problem with present food production is not of land shortage, but of yields too low to feed a doubled world population. Plant geneticists are creating hybrid plants that have higher yields and more resistance to unwanted and harmful organisms. Even with the new plants, pesticides must be applied to reap the hybrid's full potential.

What follows is some common misconceptions about pesticides and their use. Humans ingest about 10,000 times more naturally occurring pesticides than they do man-made ones. In fact, the ...view middle of the document...

It used to be very common for a family to farm and grow enough for themselves and maybe have some left over to sell. In 1787, 90% of the U.S. population lived and worked on a farm. Later, in 1950, the number of individuals who were farming as a career was only 16%. They each produced enough food for themselves and 27 others (Byrd, Shaw, and Webster, 1997).

Today, with the rise of corporate farms, higher taxes, huge incentives to develop farm land, and low food prices, small farms are going out of business and not producing food anymore. In the 1990's, only 2% of the American people actively farmed. Even though there is a decrease in farming, each farm produces at least enough food for 120 people plus themselves. These 120 additional people include 95 people from the U.S. and 25 who live overseas (Byrd, Shaw, and Webster, 1997). Another reason for this decrease in farms is the increase number of factories and other better paying and more secure jobs. Farmers have found that it is easier to have a factory job than to farm.

However, with new technology and mechanization, farming has changed. Tractors have replaced horses, cultivators and herbicides/pesticides have replaced hoes and hand work. These advancements have enabled the farmer to produce more, healthier food without increasing the land acreage. Clearly, more food must be produced with an ever growing population. Even with the shrinking number of farms, crop yields are increasing.

Pesticides

Pesticides are chemicals, both naturally and synthetically occurring, which are used to help control and kill fungi, insects, and weeds. Not only do farmers use them in growing crops, but homeowners use them in their gardens, pools, lawns, houses, and on pets. Since there has been a very large increase in population, farmers have come to rely more and more on pesticides to help them in increasing yields and guaranteeing better food production. There are over thirty thousand weeds that affect crop production world wide. With these weeds are thousands of nematode species and ten thousand species of insects that eat and destroy crops. "It is estimated that one third of the world's food crop is destroyed by these pests annually" (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 1997).

Pesticides combine with host plant resistance and mechanical and biological tactics to control unwanted pests. When used improperly, pesticides are sometimes toxic to humans, animals, and plants. Some of the early insecticides and fungicides were highly toxic and contained heavy metals. Fortunately, these pesticides are no longer approved for use today. Now, with new technology, pesticides are much less toxic to the applicator and the environment, but at the same time are controlling unwanted pests.

Government intervention

It seems popular to say that pesticides are deadly. People are frightened of pesticide residues. However, with government regulations, manufacturers and users ensure that the pesticides are safe...

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