Thursday, April 29, 2010

Silent Spring Still Silent

By Jennifer De Shields

Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring changed the way America looked at pesticides and chemical regulation and also helped ushered in the environmental movement. Ten years after its publication the United States government banned the use of the DDT, a widely used but also extremely dangerous pesticide. This book was very useful in the 60’s and 70’s, but it’s lost some of its value due to timeliness. With mounting environmental concerns at home and abroad, it’s time for this century’s Silent Spring. Pesticide use is being blamed for the decline of the bee population, the increase of skin cancers, and for poisoning our fruits and vegetables. It’s upsetting to think that even though its use has been linked to so many problems that it’s still widely used.

Lack of government regulation on these pesticide corporations are partly to blame. Too many companies are allowed to distribute their products without properly testing them to see the effects they have on food, humans, and the environment. A lot of pesticides and other chemicals are hastily put out on the market without properly testing them before hand, and I feel that proper testing would avoid many of the problems we see with pesticide use. For example, I doubt that they would have put out the pesticides that are being blamed for the decrease in the bee population if they did tests to see how it could possibly affect local wildlife. I also feel that we should be testing foods that are sprayed with pesticides to see how much of the poison actually gets into the food. Recently in China’s Guangxi Zhuang region they had to destroy some of their vegetables because it was revealed that the vegetables had excessive pesticide residue on them. It’s scary to think what would have happened if these foods weren’t tested.

The amount of pesticides that accumulate is also alarming. Pesticides are found virtually in almost every river and stream in the country, even in places where pesticides weren’t immediately applied. A city in Virginia recently tested their creeks and streams to find that they were heavily polluted with pesticides. In some areas there were pesticides in concentrations that were 40 to 1,000 times the level deemed harmful. These were areas that people fish in and children swim in, and officials are scrambling to clean their toxic waters. They also have been showing up more in the news recently because of their link to deaths and sicknesses. In Britian a pesticide used in the Wanstead Flats was found to have caused the death of 87 birds, a dog, and other wildlife.

The regulation of pesticides will probably not be getting any stricter in the near future. Although Obama has promised to have a more environmentally friendly administration, he recently appointed a formed pesticide lobbyist to the position of the chief agricultural negotiator in the Office of Trade Representatives. This has various environmentalists and organic farmers upset mainly because of the chief’s support of agribusiness, a type of agriculture that heavily depends on the use of pesticides.

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