by Randy Hutton
Pesticide resistance: everyone has heard of it, and it’s a fairly self-explanatory term. However, what most people don’t realize, is how much of a threat it really could be to our agriculture in the coming years.
Pesticides, like antibiotics, are chemicals used to combat harmful pests that can damage or kill crops like wheat, fruits, and vegetables. Also, similarly to antibiotics, the harmful agents these pesticides are manufactured to kill can develop a resistance to the chemicals, rendering the pesticides essentially useless.
This same concept can be applied to pesticides as well. According to Michigan State University, what happens is that when pests come into contact with a pesticide, they die. But, when a pest who happens to have a genetic alteration that allows them to thrive even in the presence of a pesticide, that pest can then reproduce and the chances are that eventually the resistant gene will be passed on to the offspring, furthering the aggregate resistance of the entire population of pests.
To combat this basic natural selection, farmers can manage the resistance of pests or delay it by selectively applying pesticides, using them sparingly only as needed. Additionally, rotating different chemicals into the pesticides can help in delaying resistance by essentially keeping basic natural selection guessing. Another method that has been used to try to ease the load on pesticides is genetically modifying crops to be toxic for the pests, causing them to stop damaging or even going near the crops, as it will kill them.
I find the pesticide resistance problem to be not only important but in its infancy as an issue, causing it to go under the radar for a lot of people. However, I think that advancements in genetically modified crops are going to be instrumental in the pesticide problem in the coming years. Further, I believe that the technologies and methods that go into genetically modified crops could feasibly be translated into humans, eventually helping us with pathogen resistance.
My name is Randy McNeal Hutton, and I’m a fourth-year senior at Ohio State with a firm belief in science. I stand firm with scientific findings on most issues. Most notable of which are religion, medicine, and food. I find that we as people must buy into the scientific community if we want to progress as a species and avoid our eventual peril.
This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.