The wars of the twentieth century brought about scientific and technological advances that began as military technology. These advances were then used in other areas in hopes of improving the lives of citizens in times of peace.
One wide spread application of this technology was in the form of pesticides, whose use in the agricultural industry changed the way land is cultivated. Many believed that pesticides would bring benefits for communities across the globe and were motivated by hope for a better agricultural future and for the possibility of improving crops. In theory, pesticides would eradicate world hunger.
At the beginning of the century, plagues were controlled using cyanide gas, but only a small percentage of them were completely destroyed. In 1930, Paul Muller designed a compound known as DDT, which completely eliminated insects from crops. It appeared inoffensive to the human organism and was inexpensive. DDT was used by the World Health Organization (WHO) to eliminate mosquitoes in tropical regions and to slow down the proliferation of malaria. In the post World War II scientific explosion, even more powerful synthetic, or first generation, pesticides were designed using arsenic, lead or mercury.
The agricultural industry was able to capitalize greatly on the sale of farm produce. As a result, it gained power and grew at an enormous rate, but it also failed to realize that in the near future it would lose control: the use and abuse of pesticides have brought about the proliferation of monoculture, a loss of biodiversity, and the decreased nutritional value and reduction of flavor in products.
According to the WHO (the same organization that once saw pesticides as solutions), around 200 thousand people die annually and 25 million are affected due to the use of pesticides by consumers and agricultural workers. The products that once promised great benefits for humanity are now enemies of the ecosystem. When faced with this historical panorama, it is our responsibility to ask questions. What apparently positive revolutions are we carrying out today which will be perceived as erroneous in the future?