I know that it is possible, if one is very, very, vigilant, hard-working, and
dutiful, to get out and manually or culturally control some insects in even a
very large garden. But in how many instances, in how many crops, can one
control insects in a significant planting of any size - say 50 acres or more?
And what about plant diseases, nematodes, or weeds? Is it possible using proven
methods to plant 50-100 acres of - let us say corn for example- and produce a
healthy, economical crop, without any reliance on pesticides or manmade plant
nutrients? And can it be done anywhere in the world, year after year after
year? If we can't sustain a reasonably healthy production, similar to today's
levels, of just that one crop, do you realize what that means for civilization
as we know it today?
I am very anxious to see techniques that will indeed be both efficacious and
sustainable. I do believe that if they are to be acceptable to the majority of
people in North America today, the ultimate result of their use cannot
significantly lower the current standard of living in this part of the world,
nor can it threaten the potential for the realization of a similar standard of
living in the rest of the world. I have no problem with a new agricultural
methodology that produces only enough for a much reduced population, as long as
the speed with which we adopt it allows for the population decline to occur
over time rather than by disease and hunger.
Obviously I have doubts about many of the claims of "sustainable methodology."
Most of the education and life experiences I have participated in up 'til now,
have made me very suspicious of science, technology, and particularly pest
control methodology, that has not been rigorously tested by what I learned as
the "scientific method." I tend to be very skeptical and doubtful about
testimonials, which are often quoted but seldom tested. Most of the very little
that I know about sustainable ag, and darned little of what I have seen often
touted in SANET, to my knowledge has been tested in an equally rigorous fashion
when compared to "conventional agriculture." I have to also add that many (not
all) of the reasons often referred to in Sanet, for moving into sustainable ag,
are pretty specious and scientifically (in a traditional sense) questionable.
Let me give an example. Dick Richardson cited several examples of individuals
trying to use their innovation and imagination to improve our environment. One
was the example of the farmer who is feeding his cows diatomaceous earth
free-choice as an anti-helminthic. I suppose from a practical sense, that's
okay if he is not placing products from those cows into channels of trade.
However, unless he is using an EPA registered material labeled for this use,
legally and technically he is in violation of FIFRA. Who can say without
question that just because diatomaceous earth is a "natural product," that it
will not cause some horrible effects in either the cows or mankind at some
point in time. Where is the data that supports the contention that it will
effectively control internal and some external parasites and pests without any
deleterious effects. Even if it is really working in his herd, will it work in
another herd? Should not this material receive the same level of healthy,
validated, replicated, rigorous investigation that all manmade products
similarly used have to meet in order to be used? Is his supplier of
diatomaceous earth above suspicion of any bias in the use of this material,
simply because it is a natural material? Diatomaceous earth has shown some
efficacy in controlling certain species of insects in some cases; what evidence
is there that it doesn't have similar negative impacts on other organisms? I
don't know the answers to all of these questions, but I would like to.
In order for me to have confidence in any sustainable method, it is going to
have to meet at least some rudiments of statistically valid testing. I would
like very much to see this kind of information reported in Sanet, for then it
becomes useable to me, and through me, to many others.
Two of my specialities are urban and on-farm stored product insect control. And
in every instance that I am asked to help find a solution for stored product or
home-invading insects, I encourage the use of a non-chemical control method, if
I can identify one or more that I know will work. Actually, compared to most
nutritional or pest problems in production agriculture, stored product and home
insect problems are easy since they are essentially containerized. But even
here, dealing with two areas for which we have several thousand years of
written pest control techniques, there are still many times that one must fall
back on the use of a pesticide. So I'm very interested in sustainable,
people-friendly and environmentally-friendly control methods in these fields as
well. If they will consistently work.
I am not particularly interested in reading politically-correct,
psuedo-scientific dialogue from individuals who present no credible evidence
that their knowledge or beliefs are valid. And we as a society cannot afford to
gamble the future on such unsound methods.
Since it is almost 10pm and even though I am still in my office, I too am
expressing only my own opinions and not those of my employer.
Mac Horton * voice: 803/656-3111
Entomology Department * fax: 803/656-5065
Clemson University * email: firstname.lastname@example.org