Are pesticides evil, or awesome?

Are pesticides helpful things that allow us to produce more food, and keep us safe from deadly diseases? Or are they dangerous things that kill animals and could possibly be hurting us in ways we haven't even totally figured out just yet?

Actually, they're both.

This week, scientists released a research paper looking at the health benefits (or lack thereof) of organic food—a category which largely exists as a response to pesticide use in agriculture. Meanwhile, Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring, which forced Americans to really think about the health impacts of pesticides for the first time, was published 50 years ago this month.

The juxtaposition really drove home a key point: We're still trying to figure out how to balance benefits and risks when it comes to technology. That's because there's no easy, one-size-fits-all answer. Should we use pesticides, or should we not use them? The data we look at is objective but the answer is, frankly, subjective. It also depends on a wide variety of factors: what specific pesticide are we talking about; where is it being used and how is it being applied; what have we done to educate the people who are applying it in proper, safe usage. It's complicated. And it's not just about how well the tools work. It's also about how we used them.

“It is not my contention,” Carson wrote in Silent Spring, “that chemical insecticides must never be used. I do contend that we have put poisonous and biologically potent chemicals indiscriminately into the hands of persons largely or wholly ignorant of their potentials for harm.

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Disney-logoed DDT-impregnated wallpaper for the kids' room (1947)

Does your 1947 tenement apartment suffer from the kind of disease-bearing insects that thrive in filth? Why not protect your children from this infectious influence by wallpapering every surface with DDT-impregnated wall-paper? It's hygienic and stylish! Available with Disney trademarks!

Protect your children!

Previously: EPA's most-wanted fugitives - Boing Boing Air New Zealand plane passengers "fumigated alive" - Boing Boing Wallpaper designed by Mark Mothersbaugh - Boing Boing Atomic age wallpaper - Boing Boing Wallpaper from Disney World's Polynesian resort - Boing Boing Wallpapered furniture Boing Boing Warped custom wallpaper - Boing Boing Read the rest