Tales From The Fields: Twin threat to world agriculture

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The future of world agriculture may well depend on man’s ability to solve the twin problems of growing resistance of crops and livestock pests to existing pesticides and of environmental contamination by these chemicals, a noted British scientist had said in Rome this week in September 1970.

Some 600 reports of resistance involving over 100 different types of pests of agricultural and veterinary importance had already reached the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.

“And these only represent the cases we have verified,” said the scientist, Professor James R Busvine of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, following a meeting of FAO’s Working Party on Pest Resistance to Pesticides, of which he was a member.

He continued: “I cannot put the case strongly enough for the need for new measures. It is no exaggeration to say the future of world agriculture may well depend on it.”

The hazards of environmental pollution by pesticides were already publicised and in certain cases somewhat exaggerated. Much less was generally known of the growing number of failures in pest control due to pests which had developed resistance to pesticides, said Prof Busvine.

There was an urgent need for the international organisations to back research to develop integrated control measures, including biological control and other alternatives to pesticides. Professor Busvine emphasised that such organisations could not carry out this research, however, without the additional financial backing from member governments.

The Working Party, a subsidiary body of FAO’s Committee on Pesticides in Agriculture, agreed that in the long term the use of chemicals should be integrated with other control methods such as suitable farming practices, less susceptible varieties, biological control, hormones, and so on. Plans were consequently drawn up for the increased collaboration with FAO’s Integrated Pest Control Panel.