A major development that has occurred since Silent Spring was first published in 1962 has been a fervent dedication to research and development which serves as the core pillar of the crop protection industry. Statistics from the USDA Economic Research Service show that private investment in R&D for pesticide products has grown significantly, from $42 million in 1962 to $793 million in 2010.

Other enhancements over the last half century: a rigorous registration and re-registration process for each pesticide product, including more than 120 safety, environmental and health tests to determine possible effects on consumers, wildlife and the environment; advancements in the training of applicators, and the development of precision applications; the continuing investment in Integrated Pest Management, a multi-faceted form of pest control that helps reduce energy use and potential environmental impact, while maintaining quality output.

In the nutshell, the crop protection industry is committed to serving the consuming public safely and efficiently. When negative information surfaces that makes the general public distrustful and suspicious of their business practices – regardless of how ill-conceived and flawed that information is – then companies and the industry as a whole must work together to repair the damage.

Thorough testing, science-based regulation, and continued investment in modern agricultural tools and techniques all contribute to the success of U.S. farming. This would have been the logical progression with or without the “mass hysteria” of Carson’s book. Meanwhile, agriculture, as always, continues working on ways to improve the world’s food supply in spite of the many hurdles placed in its path by certain activist environmental groups spawned by Silent Spring.

AMA against California’s biotech labeling measure

Here’s an important update to an earlier column that I wrote about California’s Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act to appear on November’s general election ballot. The American Medical Association announced recently that “there is no scientific justification for special labeling of bioengineered foods.”

It believes that nothing about the process of recombinant DNA makes genetically engineered crop plants inherently more dangerous to the environment or to human health than the traditional crop plants that have been deliberately but slowly bred for human purposes for millennia.

This is the shared view by the National Academy of Sciences, the American Dietetic Association, the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N., the European Commission, and countless other national science academies and non-governmental organizations.
Proponents of the measure claim to promote opportunities for consumers to make informed choices about the foods they eat.  But to build support for the initiative, they are playing on consumer fears about a promising technology that is nevertheless prone to “Frankenfoods” demagoguery. Let’s hope that Californians see this measure as wrong-headed and unnecessary and vote accordingly come November.