THE HISTORY OF PESTICIDE DEVELOPMENT
Pesticides have been in use for centuries. In 470 B.C., the Greek philosopher Democrates used olive extracts on plants to prevent blight. Vine pests were destroyed with sulfur fumes by Cato in Italy in 200 B.C. Biological control was found effective by the ancient Chinese who used ants to protect their trees from insect pests.
Pesticide use in the early twentieth century brought with it some problems. Many of the so-called "natural" chemical pesticides in use before 1940 were extremely toxic. They included sulfur, copper, oil, nicotine, arsenates, formaldehyde, and micurate bichloride. These were all sprayed on crops, and little was mentioned of their hazards at that time.
The world market for pesticides has exploded since the 1940s. Approximately $13 billion worth of pesticides were being used every year by 1986. The breakdown of pesticide use in 1984 was as follows: herbicides, 43 percent; fungicides, 18 percent; and other pesticides, 39 percent. The United States uses more pesticides than any other country. In 1984 we used 34 percent of all pesticides; Eastern Europe and Russia used 8 percent; Latin America, 10 percent; the Far East, 16 percent; and Western Europe, 19 percent. The rest of the world used the remaining 13 percent.
Pesticides have made an important contribution to both food production and disease control. It is estimated that 45 percent of the world's potential food supply is lost to pests: 30 percent to weeds, pests, and diseases before harvest, and another 15 percent between harvest and use. Some estimate that at least one third of the crops in Third World countries are lost to pests.)
Despite the fact that pesticides have aided in the control of malaria, schistosomiasis, and filariasis in tropical countries, there are still 150 million cases of malaria and about 250 million cases of schistosomiasis and filariasis each year in the world. There is no way of knowing and no way to calculate how many lives will be saved or improved by the use of pesticides to control diseases and increase our food production. Likewise there is no way to calculate how many lives will be lost from pesticide use either. Some dangerous pesticides that are banned or restricted in North ,America and Europe have been unloaded on Third World countries.
There were about 1,200 pesticide chemical compounds, combined in 30,000 different formulations and brands in the United States in 1981. The United States used about 900 million pounds of pesticides in that year. Approximately 334 million pounds of pesticides or 5-10 percent of the entire world's supply was used by California alone in 1977. (2)