Filed under: Agriculture, Farming, Pesticide Use | Tags: Agriculture, Farming, pesticides
It’s hard to believe but this year marks the 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s best-selling book Silent Spring. For younger readers or those who might need a refresher course, Carson’s 1962 book woke up the world to the dangers of global pollution, the use of pesticides such as DDT, and the threats to environmental safety. The book documented detrimental effects of pesticides on the environment, particularly on birds. Carson accused the chemical industry of spreading disinformation, and blamed public officials of accepting industry claims uncritically.
Indeed, Carson single-handedly spawned today’s environmental movement as scores of different groups now claim devotion to improving and saving the planet from such health threats and environmental damage. While Carson placed ag chemicals squarely in the cross-hairs, her warnings did lead to positive advancements in the way agricultural does business, and have successfully resulted in measures to protect life and the environment.
For example, amid consumer concerns, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1970 under the Nixon administration to protect human health and the environment. The creation of the U.S. EPA marked a transition to a more rigorous crop protection and regulatory program. It also created a closer working relationship between industry and the federal government and regulatory state agencies. Another benefit was that with the creation of the EPA, the Federal Fungicide, Insecticide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) was revised to provide new safety measures. The objective of FIFRA is to provide federal control of pesticide distribution, sale, and usage.
Three separate amendments from 1972 through 1992 significantly updated the original 1947 law, and established additional stringent standards for pesticides including: transferring pesticide regulation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to EPA; re-registering older pesticides to ensure compliance with new standards; and new worker protection measures. Furthermore, the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act added special margins for infants and children, and the Pesticide Registration Improvement Act, passed first in 2002, increased industry fees to enable EPA to expand scientific evaluation capacity and enhance timely decision-making. In 1970 there were 4,084 EPA employees. Last year that number had grown to 17,359.
Can you name some other areas in farming that have improved over the past 50 years? Do you believe that the safety of pesticide products and their application have improved since the printing of Silent Spring?
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