Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"The Consumer is Always Right, and That's Why Farmers Use Pesticides"

 Last night, Purdue Collegiate Farm Bureau held their annual banquet, and the keynote speaker was Mr. Leonard P. Gianessi from CropLife Foundation.  The topic was a unique one to say the least, but as we typically look at things from the eyes of producers, it gets very hard to understand consumer attitudes against things like pesticides that make their food more safe. 

What Mr. Gianessi has been doing in these sorts of presentations is turning the card around and speaking about the fact that it is consumer standards and expectations that bring cause for our use of pesticides.  Now before anyone gets all hot and bothered, let me explain that statement.  This link should take you to the PowerPoint slides. 

We learned something interesting in this presentation.  Farmers aren't spending a fortune on chemicals because they simply love spending money, using fuel to drive through fields spraying, and using time that could be spent doing other things.  They spend all this time and money because it produces a better product for their consumers.  Actually, they make this investment because consumers demand food of a certain quality at the very least.  I mean, we could just not do this, have some food that is still acceptable to eat, but looks funny, is discolored, or the like.  In some cases, like blueberries, these chemicals protect consumers from finding beetles conveniently hidden in their food.  Who doesn't like a nice crunchy beetle after every few berries, I mean come on! 

In all seriousness, I urge you to look at the CropLife Foundation's webpage here, and find them on Facebook here.  There is further information on this and other similar topics.

Have a good day, and remember that it's spring.  Slow down and watch for slow moving farm machinery.  That's someone's family member, and saving a couple minutes isn't worth taking their life.

Always remember to leave comments!

Samuel Ebenkamp


  1. Two questions, Sam.
    1. I noticed that some of the need for pesticides is because of "cosmetic" damage to the crops (not being visually acceptable for the market). To what extent is the yield increase of pesticide use attributed to eliminating cosmetic damages as opposed to actual destruction of crops?
    2. Are alternatives to pesticide use (polyculture, crop rotation, crop timing, trap crops, etc.) being considered? If so, to what effect? If not, why?

  2. To answer your first question, the actual yield increase in the case of fighting pests that cause cosmetic-only problems is actually nothing in theory. This is unless you count what looks wrong to the consumer as not usable.

    To answer your second question, yes and no. To regular row crops for example, there are ways to limit the use of pesticides, but as total alternatives, I do not believe so. You can see this where some farmers plant corn on corn every single year. You can do this, and it's acceptable, but your risk of resistance in that field for certain pests and weeds becomes greater, and therefore you put yourself at risk of using more pesticides, or if it's a weed problem, sometimes this leads to more tillage, and potential further and faster erosion of the soil.

    I hope I answered your questions with information you find valuable.