Thursday, August 6, 2009

Killing Pesticides, Not Pests

By Alan Caruba

We are going to go from cotton fields to bedrooms in order to connect the dots on the many ways the Environmental Protection Agency and environmental groups have conspired to deprive Americans of beneficial chemicals that protect crops and humans from insect pests.

Only a scant two percent of the U.S. population engages in the farming that feeds all the rest of us and provides a bounty for export. Farm kids will tell you how they were on a tractor by the age of eight or nine, working the fields from early morning until dusk. When they get older, a lot of them decide to take up another way of making a living because farming is very hard work.

Since the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, not to mention the Department of Agriculture, a life spent farming has become increasingly more difficult thanks to the endless regulations regarding land and water use, what products they can use to fend off the pests and weeds that attack crops, and the manner in which they can be applied.

Why should this matter to you? Ask yourself that question while you are prowling the aisles in your favorite supermarket. Here’s the equation to keep in mind: No farmers. No food. And that includes livestock that depend on feed like hay and grains. If you like a nice cotton shirt or dress, remember that it started in a farmer’s field.

On August 3, the Western Environmental Law Center sent out a news release to brag about that way the 6th Circuit had issued an order denying the pesticide industry’s petition for rehearing in National Cotton Council v. EPA No. 06-4630. The order upheld the Court’s earlier finding that pesticide residuals and biological pesticides constitute pollutants under the Clean Water Act.

Just about everything is a “pollutant” as far as the EPA is concerned, but they really hate pesticides. Now farmers seeking to protect their crops will be required to get a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit. If their neighbors or just about anyone objects, they won’t get it.

Let me tell you about some of the pests that attack cotton. They include Alfalfa Looper, Boll Weevil Song, Cotton Bollworm, Cutworms, Leafhoppers, Pink Bollworm, Saltmarsh Catapillers, Silverfish Whitefly, Webspinning Spider Mites, and something called Thrips.

Those are just a few of the insect pests that attack a cotton crop and they are just a few of the hundreds of insect species with which farmers of every kind of crop must contend. The invention of pesticides tipped the struggle in their favor, allowing them to protect crops in a fashion that permits them to feed the rest of us.

Now, here’s where it goes beyond just the problems farmers encounter. The rest of us are subject to every kind of disease imaginable because a lot of insect pests transmit them. They did so quite famously during the Black Death that wiped out a third of Europe’s population and, these days, they spread Lyme Disease, West Nile Fever, Rocky Mountain Fever, Dysentery, and all manner of nasty stuff, including the Bubonic plague.

By 1996 the EPA had whipped up everybody’s fears that pesticides were so harmful to children that even more regulation was needed, so Congress obligingly passed the Food Quality Protection Act and it amended the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.

While it is true that the EPA hasn’t banned a pesticide since DDT, it is equally true that it has found all kinds of ways to eliminate a variety of pesticides from use. Usually they cite “studies” in which some rats are stuffed so full of high doses of a pesticide that it causes them to become ill. Short of drinking a pesticide directly from the bottle, this is not likely to happen to you. Most structural pesticides are so diluted when applied that they are a threat solely to the pests.

All of which means that, while the farmers are encountering difficulty dealing with Mother Nature’s nasty creatures, the rest of us are increasingly vulnerable to them as well. A case in point is the raging population of bed bugs that was the subject of a recent EPA “summit.”

Simply put, if the EPA had not forced Ficam, a bendiocarb applied with water, and chlorpyrifos, formerly known as Dursban off the market, there would be NO bedbug problem because either one of these excellent pesticides would eliminate them.

The EPA’s message to us is that we should learn to love bedbugs because they are difficult and costly to eliminate these days. Fortunately, they do not spread disease.

And you thought the EPA was “protecting” you?

No, they are protecting the “environment.”


Caruba blogs daily at http://factsnotfantasy.blogspot.com. A business and science writer, he is the founder of The National Anxiety Center.

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