Pesticides kill. That is what they are intended for. However, many of them don't just kill the insects they are targeted against.
While they can save human lives when used against things like mosquitoes and bed bugs, many of them also sicken or kill needed insects, microbes, wildlife and humans.
As health sciences have progressed we now better understand the risks of using pesticides and now know that many of them are too toxic to keep using.
It is only recently that science has started to understand the importance of human gut microbes (microbiome) and the role of the microbiome in our health. Most pesticides have never been tested on the human microbiome and not in the combinations commonly found in our food.
A number of European countries are coming together to block the use of all non-agricultural pesticides — a important step in the right direction. The French Senate just announced its backing for the move.
The announcement, made on May 31 by Senator Joël Labbé, was greeted with a strong welcome by consumers, environmental and health organizations groups.
France has been active in this arena for some time, having already banned all pesticides in green public spaces throughout the country since January 2017, with the sole exceptions being at railways, airports and along roadways. When the new law passes, something expected not long from now, it will block the use of pesticides in private gardens. It will also prohibit sales of pesticides to non-professional users. Both parts of that law would go into effect as of January 2019.
In contrast to this important forward progress in Europe is the backward movement in the U.S. and the infestation of Trumpism at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Under Scott Pruitt, who has single-handedly rolled back much of the previous administration’s tougher stands on emissions regulations and is now moving to do the same for pesticides, it seems like anything the U.S. agribusiness giants want to poison us with is more than welcome as long as it makes money for them.
In one of its latest moves, the EPA is looking soon to allow three widely used organophosphate pesticides: chlorpyrifos, malathion and diazinon. All three had been scheduled for ban from widespread use prior to the Trump administration taking power. All three had been, for years, identified as having major health risks to endangered species and humans as well, with major bans having been in place since back in the early days of Republican President George W. Bush’s administration. Scott Pruitt appears to be in the process of changing all that, in part from the Trump administration being deeply in the pockets of Dow Chemical, the company who would benefit most by widespread use of the pesticides. See “Trump’s Pesticide War on Kids” (Traveling Minds, May/June 2017) for more on these chemicals, why they were to be banned and why that ban may be reversed.
New pesticides are coming up for review almost every day in the United States, and with the current EPA perversion in place, it looks like they will get a fast and positive ruling for all of them regardless of how dangerous they are. One such chemical that might make its way into the U.S. ecosystem soon, if the inventors have their way, is a new form of the pesticide dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, also known as DDT.
The previous form of DDT was sold for years especially in places such as where mosquito-borne malaria was present. That changed as many scientists began exposing the highly toxic nature of the chemical and its persistence in the biological food chain. It would appear intact in water runoff from agricultural fields, get into the water system and appear in fish, birds and then other animals. Eggs from birds who had ingested DDT were thinner, resulting in lower birth rates; this notably affected the eggs of the then-endangered peregrine falcons and California condors, among other species. Animals in the food chain also died from the chemical.
Then, Rachel Carson, the writer of Silent Spring, a 1962 work for the general public, exposed the horrible truth about the dangers of the chemical for all to see. That book is seen by many as having single-handedly launched the modern environmental activist movement.
After Carson’s book came out, the number of scientists demanding an end to the widespread use of DDT greatly increased. By the 1970s and 1980s, agricultural use of the chemical was banned in most developed countries, including the United States, by 1972. It was further reinforced by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, a ruling that went into effect in 2004 that restricted DDT use solely to what was known as vector control for extremely critical health emergencies.
This previous form of DDT was in a form easily absorbed by all living things around it. Disclosed in the journal Angewandte Chemie, the development of a new crystalline form of the chemical was recently announced. The chemists involved in the study suggest the new form may be less dangerous than its predecessor.
The new chemical could be just that – “less dangerous” – but that kind of phrasing raises major concerns, especially since it still includes the hazardous nature of the chemical at its core. The long-term stability of the crystalline form of the chemical, and the potential for new dangers from this still-highly-toxic chemical, should require extensive testing before it is widely used.
Under the Pruitt-run EPA, the approval of the widespread use of this new innovation might start its widespread killings faster than most might imagine.
In France and much of Europe, at least, it looks like this new form of DDT, regardless of how miraculous it might be, may never be released for use because it would be for non-agricultural use. One can only hope such sense will eventually return to those running the EPA.
For us to stop poisoning ourselves and our planet we need a fundamental shift in our culture. We need to rethink our entire relationship to nature, learn more about and from nature and work with it instead of against it. And we need to take the profit motive out of food production.
One example of where our ignorance leads to our downfall is in the study of how insects perceive and respond to light, sound, odors and magnetic fields. Esteemed entymologist Prof. Philip S. Callahan found that modern industrial agricultural methods actually attract harmful insects while more natural farming methods that better support crop health don't. He also discovered that merely adding paramagnetic rock dust to soil could greatly increase crop health and yield while not attracting harmful insects.
But, companies like Monsanto can't make billions off of rock dust and healthy crops with no insect infestations, so Callahan's research has been suppressed and most farmers simply don't know that there is a better way to produce food.
You can help create a smarter, healthier world by supporting your local organic farmers instead of supporting the destructive agrichemical industry.