Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Striving Towards Zero

I was talking to a farm manager friend about the use of fumigants and other pesticides in today’s modern production farming. When the topic of fumigants came up, he mentioned that using the same amount of the same material has been giving increasingly less results over the past 20 years. The question comes up as to why; the answer is resistance.

Fumigation works by killing a targeted pathogen in the soil. But, no matter what the product is, you never kill all of the pathogens. The pathogens that are left are naturally resistant to the chemical compound used so they survive. Look at it as killing 80 out of 100 and the 20 left are the strongest, baddest, bad boys on the block. They reproduce faster so the next time you fumigate you only kill 70% with 30% stronger yet. You can see that over time you can have a population of almost super bugs that are very difficult to manage.

This brought up an interesting question for the world to answer; can we live with zero? Is it possible to totally eradicate a biological population, beneficial or pathogenic, and still survive as a human race? If you read the labels of some of the most widely used pesticide, the word “control” is what they are attempting to do. Pesticide manufacturers learned long ago that farmers want to grow the best. Corn, potatoes, peas, or beans it doesn’t matter. Farmers want to produce the best because they know the customer, either American, Japanese, or Korean . . . , wants the best. And the best does not have a blemish on it and is perfectly shaped. This is why we are striving for zero. If there are no bugs, there are no blemishes; then all is good with the world. Or is it? I submit to you the concept that our world cannot exist with zero. We are all part of this very intricate and very sensitive biological system called life. We exist with plant life, beneficial bacteria life, pathogenic life, and it goes on and on.

The American farmer produces more food than anywhere else in the world and they could produce more if our buying standards were not so high. If a potato has a blemish on its skin it is still a potato. If it is misformed, it will cook just as good as a perfect potato. I think you can see where I am going with this Utopian thought. All I want you to take home from this post is we can’t live with zero.