Pesticides Bad, organics good! But how do we know it’s true?Thinking that pesticides are bad and organic is good is thinking is ingrained into our common wisdom. Few question it
Josh Gilder, who worked with the State Department and was a speechwriter for Ronald Reagan (1911–2004 ), opened by quoting the 16th century Swiss alchemist Paracelsus, who reportedly said “The dose makes the poison.”
For example, a very small amount of arsenic will have “no detectable physiological effect on you whatsoever,” whereas drinking too much water can kill you. (Recall the woman who tragically died in the “Hold your Wee for a Wii” contest.) The body produces electricity but “you get hit by a lightning bolt, you’re dead,” Gilder explained. These and innumerable other examples confirm the wisdom of Paracelsus.
The relevance for us today, Gilder explained, is that many chemicals that are regulated or even banned — due to their supposed carcinogenic properties — actually pose a danger only when ingested in absurdly high quantities.
Indeed, according to Gilder “about half the substances that ever have been tested well at a high enough dose, produce cancerous tumors and laboratory rats.” Bread, vitamins, coffee, tea, fruits, vegetables, herbs — so many everyday substances we eat and use naturally contain substances which cause cancer when force-fed to a rat in unnaturally high doses.
But what about pesticides? They’re toxic. They’re designed to kill. Surely pesticides are a bad thing, and eating foods treated with pesticides will cause cancer, right? Gilder argued that a study in California showed that 97% pesticides were less toxic than coffee. More than that he maintained that foods typically have trace amounts of pesticides, if that. “And when they can detect it,” Gilder stated, “they often can’t measure it because it’s so small. And when they can measure it, you’re talking about parts per billion parts per trillion often.”
And pesticides have their benefits, too. Gilder presented “hockey stick graphs” showing that after modern chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and GMO-hybrid plants began to be used after World War II, global food production skyrocketed. It’s because of these farming techniques that malnutrition began to become a thing of the past.
That’s not to say that pesticides shouldn’t be carefully examined and regulated. But current pushes to ban useful pesticides in the EU’s are irrational, according in Gilder. He explained their rationale in this way:
If a substance is found to be carcinogenic by sticking a tube down a rat’s throat and literally pumping solution of that substance, usually dissolved with a special solvent because mostly they can’t get high enough doses dissolved in water, into the rat stomach, and you do that day after day after day, and the rat develops tumors, that substance is carcinogenic and it is banned.
Gilder argued that by this logic, if a vineyard were to spray wine on its own grapes as a would-be pesticide, then in the EU wine “would have to be banned because it’s an obvious carcinogen.”
The solution is to just go organic and eat natural pesticide-free food, right?
Not so fast. Gilder observes that “There’s this assumption that nature is always benign, always wonderful, something that’s natural is better for you than something that’s manmade.” But he believes this is “irrational,” because natural, organic foods tend to contain natural pesticides in far higher quantities than other produce treated with synthetic pesticides.
According to Gilder, all this zaniness is due to a Marxist-affiliated framing ideology called “ agroecology,,” sometimes called “peasant farming.” The idea sounds benign enough — it’s just “sustainable farming that works with nature” according to But some of its promoters describe it as something far more political and sinister: agroecology is “a way of life, struggle, and resistance against capitalism.”
Agroecologist ideology, however, wants to do away with many useful pesticides and synthetic farming techniques. If widely adopted, this portends doom for worldwide food production as the global population passes 8 billion and promises to hit 10 billion in the next 40 years.
If Gilder is right, many of the solutions we need, in order to avoid this “engineered famine” are already here. Only misguided ideology stands in our way. Time will tell if humanity is fit enough to overcome and survive the dangerous marriage of Marxism and farming.
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