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The War on Bugs

The War on Bugs
by Will Allen
Chelsea Green Publishing, 2007

More than a century ago, before the Gulf War and Vietnam and the World Wars, and just after the final shots were fired in the Civil War, American farmers began fighting a well-publicized and heavily financed "war on bugs" that continues to this day.

Crop pests have certainly been a problem since the dawn of agriculture and farmers have been "fighting back" plagues for millenia. What is different today, and for the past 125 years, is the introduction of powerful chemical weapons and a mindset aggressively promoted by chemical companies and politicians and government agencies that encourages a kind of "Sherman's march" strategy to achieve the total destruction of the enemy.

Not until the late 20th century did the collateral damages of this war upon wildlife, native plants, soils, air quality, and the family farms it was intended to "liberate" become apparent.

This book, by organic farmer and activist Will Allen, traces the history of America's conflict with  bugs to the early 1800s.

He credits the introduction of a nascent fertilizer industry, the spread of farm publications and the rise of agriculture colleges as laying the groundwork for much broader and more devastating campaigns to come. He suggests that this alliance of industry, media and government-sponsored science have fomented senseless acts of social and environmental violence.

"Farmers and consumer are in the process of deciding what kind of future they want, what kind of food they want. The stakes are high, perhaps higher than ever before because of the widespread damage to farmland and watersheds and the enormous corporate control of our food system," Allen points out.

"Our choice is between more ecological and biological systems, which are still used by most of the farmers in the world, versus a kind of chemical/genetic roulette that pays off in the short term for large-scale corporate farmers and the Wall Street investor class but is turning out to be a very unsound gamble for real farmers and consumers."

The War on Bugs
The War on Bugs

...the strategy of the chemical corporations remains the same with their genetically manipulated products. If they get farmers hooked on genetically modified organisms it will be too late to go back, not just for those farmers, but for their entire community. Genetically manipluated crops drift everywhere, so no related crops in communities where GMOs are grown can be considered totally organic or GMO-free because of spillage in transport and pollen drift.

It wasn't just the farm press that promoted genetic manipulation. Biotech articles in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s and almost all of the local and national magazines and the major daily newspapers heavily endorsed genetically manipulated crops, hormones, and medicines. The journal editors, corporate advertisers, government agencies, and scientific experts badgered farmers (and other consumers) about the promised benefits of genetic engineering for almost twenty years before a single GM product was sold.

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