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This ecologist predicted the pesticide crisis half a century ago

Credits: Flickr

Look to the past to better understand the future.  In the 1960 s an American scientist predicted the current pesticide disaster. However lobbies from agricultural companies at the time tried to discredit her scientific work.  Yet as this scientist warned, the negative effect of pesticides on our environment are known today!   

Rachel Louise Carson (1907-1964) was an American marine biologist who was very interested in protecting the planet and in particular, the problems caused by pesticides and synthetic herbicides.  Her book The Silent Spring published in 1962, predicted the future problems of pesticides on the environment. Faced with fierce opposition from pesticide manufactures at the time, today Carson’s book is known for contributing to the creation of an ecologist movement in the western world.

Carson  book  focuses on soil observations she made during the 1950 s when the use of pesticides in agriculture exploded. In this period, many strange anomalies were seen for the first time and remain unexplained.  However, Carson quickly identified a link of cause and effect between the extensive use of pesticides and these environmental anomalies – in particular in relation to birds.

Agricultural food companies, in particular Monsanto,  launched a violent campaign to discredit her findings as Carson readily condemned  Dichlorodiphényltrichloroéthane (DDT). This polluting pesticide was finally banned from being used in the USA in 1972.  However it was not banned in the UK until 1984. Carson also accused the chemical industries of spreading misinformation and thrashed public authorities who were guilty of answering to chemical industry expectations without asking more questions.

Since then, lobbies have never stopped playing the disinformation card to discredit possible accusers, while we continue using products that destroy our soil and pollute our water and air. Nevertheless, as Carson predicted in the 1960 s, the use of pesticides has impacted our ecosystems, biodiversity and human health.

In 1980, Rachel Louise Carson, was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contribution to science which is the highest civilian honor in the United States.

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