Pesticide Use in Agriculture -A Controversy.
Pesticides include insecticides, herbicides and fungicides, which kill insects, weeds, and are harmful to humans. They often have direct or indirect effects on other living things. Synthetic pesticides are chemical compounds; some are more toxic than others. Synthetic pesticides can release compounds that are more toxic than the original pesticides when they break down in the environment. Some called persistent materials just "hang around" and don't break down for long periods of time. Botanical pesticides, almost all of which are insecticides, are derived directly from plants or animals. It breaks down rapidly in the environment, usually in a matter of hours or days, and are not known to accumulate in the environment. Materials such as lead arsenate, salt, copper, soap, sulfur, oil and wood ashes, have been used as pesticides with varying levels of success and varying rates of toxicity. Most are still used today, fortunately with a better understanding of their effects. No pesticide is considered "safe." Using pesticides may be necessary at times, but in many cases there are alternatives that are often more effective in the long run and less harmful to the environment and the applicator. .
In response to Maurice Gordon's comment, one can disagree with his statement because there is not enough evidence to prove that without pesticides, starvation will become a problem. However, there are many reasons to believe that alternatives may have a greater benefit to the environment as well as effective in productivity. Besides pesticides, there are controls such as biological, cultivation methods, genetic, pheromones and hormones, and Quarantine. The proper timing of planting, fertilizing, and irrigating enable the plants to resist pests because they are stressed by other environmental factors. Biological controls use natural disease organisms, parasites, or predators to control pests (an example is the cottony-cushion scale and Vidalia beetle).