Man has been competing with pests of all kinds for the limited food, water, and shelter resources in any given area, since he has walked the earth. Many of these battles were for survival and the loser must leave or die. The battles were all pretty traditional until the 1900’s when man discovered a better weapon, chemicals. While chemical compounds had been used for centuries to discourage pests, they were not effective enough to really give man a meaningful advantage.
Sadly, most of the early successful pesticide chemicals were discovered or developed to advance chemical warfare during World Wars I & II. Of course, some of the early chemistries were found to be excellent for killing people (i.e. Mustard gas, Cyanide compounds, Chlorine & Phosgene). Other “less effective” chemistries were later found to be more useful in killing insects or rodent pests. Many herbicides and insecticides were developed that became a game changer for agricultural production. For the first time ever, man had the upper hand in the battle with pests! If you think of pesticide choices like tools in a tool box, the early chemistries were much like having 5 different kinds of hammers to pick from. Then we evolved wrenches and screwdrivers. Today we have cordless electric tools, scopes, monitors and specialty tools. Most of the early pesticide products were developed from oil refining by-products. Then the research turned much of its attention to plant and biological sources. Today our pesticides come from a wide variety of creative organic and inorganic sources.
History of Pesticides
As the pesticide era and evolution progressed, it became apparent that while chemical products were helping mankind in many ways, they could certainly cause harm if abused or just used inappropriately. This concern lead to numerous chemical and pesticide laws and eventually the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA was directed to evaluate the safety of pesticides, which lead to a “risk vs benefit” standard. If the risks associated with a pesticide outweighed the benefit of it, it could no longer be registered and sold for public use. These risks considered human health & environmental hazards. Many acutely toxic pesticides such as nicotine, strychnine & cyanides were lost immediately. Over time the standards have become much more stringent and in recent years over regulation has caused the loss of many “specialty” pesticide tools which would be safer and more effective than some products currently available. We are certainly overdue for a major overhaul in the pesticide evaluation process. The new “risk cup” formula which replaced the “risk vs benefit” standard has caused the evaluation process to become counterproductive.
As the science of pesticides has evolved, one thing is clear, the job of a pest control technician, farmer, turf expert or anyone involved in solving pest problems has become a lot more about education than application. The days of picking up the right hammer for the job are over. Todays pesticide applicators will inspect, evaluate, pin point applications or use time release formulations when general prevention is the goal. Biological products are continuing to develop and become more practical. Mechanical controls, seed genetics and cultural practices have advanced to become the preferred methods of control.
While mankind will always make mistakes and we will be forced to reevaluate and move on, the age of pesticides is not new to us anymore. Man has gained the upper hand on pests of many kinds. The new goal must be to make that advantage sustainable, which will mean safe and cost effective. Contact Us Today!