> What makes a given medicine more or less effective and therefore more
> or less valuable, is precisely the degree of selectivity built into
> it, in relation to the human organism. If itīs as toxic to a human
> being as it is to the disease organism, itīs worthless. In
> other words, penicillan (as well as other beta lactams) is
Penicillins were a very fortunate find. Most antibiotics (and many
other drugs) have a higher mammalian toxicity, yet are still used
because the benefits often outweigh the costs.
> Unfortunately, commercial pesticides in general tend to be non
> selective, and are highly toxic to most if not all forms of life.
This was true only of the very earliest pesticides such as lead
arsenate. Even the much vilified DDT is vastly more toxic to insects
than to mammals. If it wasn't so resistant to microbial attack it would
be very safe. The trend in pesticide development for the last decade or
two has been toward highly selective chemicals that are significantly
less toxic than table salt to humans.
> Not only that, but the tecnology is simply unnecessary - there are far
> better and less toxic methods available, whose effectiveness has been
> clearly demonstrated.
Why don't you give some examples? I have been working on biological
control (mostly in the seed and seedling disease context) for most of my
professional life. I have plots in the field right now. Without
exception these have been far less efficacious than chemical controls.
> On the other hand, commercial pesticides can be easily patented,
> packaged and distributed. They are better than biological means of
> pest control for making money for a few,
The same is true for many biological agents. The big problem is that
most don't work well enough to convince anyone to pay for them. I
realize that you are talking about more than "agents" that can be
sprayed or scattered on, and I am all for use of cultural practices.
Many of these have costs too (eg, soil erosion from cultivation).
> In short, I feel your analogy is rather unaccurate.
I believe Steve's analogy is right on target. Everything a farmer does
has a cost, either economic or environmental.
> Toxic agrochemicals are as doomed as the tobacco industry, and itīs
> just a matter of time. However, itīs up to all of us to keep pointing
> this out. Doing any less will only lengthen the time it will take to
> make to transition and will contribute to untold needless deaths and
You are overstating the danger. If pesticides are so dangerous, how
come tests on various mammals are negative or immeasurably slight? If
you think the toxicological consensus regarding risk estimation is
wrong, please explain why. We should continue to improve methods of
risk estimation. But in the final analysis, decisions about pesticide
registration will still to be made in the light of the risk-benefit
calculation, and IMO, this is appropriate.
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