Monday, December 03, 2012

Rachel Carson Was Wrong

Millions of dead later, it's clear that Rachel Carson was full of shit.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of biologist Rachel Carson’s 1962 book, Silent Spring, which argued that man-made chemicals represented a grave threat to human health and the environment. Using harsh and unscientific rhetoric—which was rebuked in the journal Science magazine shortly after its publication—Carson postulated that man-made chemicals affect processes of the human body in “sinister and often deadly ways.”

History has proven Carson’s claims wrong. Contrary to her admonitions, a chemically caused cancer epidemic never came to pass. Researchers who identified environmental factors did not simply target trace chemical exposures as significant, but instead focused on major cancer causes such as tobacco and poor diets. In fact, people are living longer and healthier lives, cancer rates have declined even as chemical use has increased, and chemicals are not among the key causes of cancer.

As the world reexamines Carson’s anti-pesticide legacy, this paper focuses on the importance of chemicals designed for crop production. These agrochemicals represent a subset of the many technologies and practices designed to promote high-yield farming— making it possible for farmers to increase food production per acre. Other technologies include biotechnology, better soil and water management, among other things. Policies that allow strategic development and application of such tools will continue to facilitate the Green Revolution and increase agriculture’s ability to feed the world’s growing population. In addition, high-yield agriculture reduces the amount of land necessary to meet those needs, thereby providing more land for conservation and biodiversity. The adverse impacts of pesticides on human health and the environment are often greatly exaggerated and history shows that these risks can be managed to ensure substantial net benefits.


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