by Elizabeth Renter
May 9th, 2014
In a promising, albeit rare move, the federal government has awarded a $750,000 grant to scientists at Washington State University to study organic pest controls. The research will look at non-chemical solutions for eradicating and controlling pests in farming, including methods like crop rotation and the use of other pests to control those that harm crops.
The project will last three years and is led by Bill Snyder, a professor of entomology (bug studies) at WSU. Called “CSI:Organic”, the study will also analyze the DNA of predator bugs’ stomachs to determine how they affect crop DNA.
“We hope that we learn some really general lessons about how to make pests less of a problem,” said Prof. Snyder. “I’m glad when I see an aphid on something I get [at the store,] because at least I know it’s really organic,” exemplifying the idea that if it’s good enough for the bugs, it must be good enough for us.
Snyder and his colleagues will be looking at the ecology of pest control or, as Ethan A. Huffputs it, “the intricacies of predator bugs and how they affect soil health in order to figure out ways that, as an entire system, bugs, crops and soil can co-exist in harmony with one another to keep everything in a proper balance.”
Organic farming is crucial now more than ever, as we are finding our foods, soil, and water are all contaminated with pesticides from large conventional farming operations. These pesticides can’t be washed off, and are causing some nasty issues to the environment, animals, and humans. And, as many successful organic farms can attest: organic farming isn’t only possible, but can be profitable.
Though a wash of chemicals sprayed over a field of genetically-modified crops may be an easy solution to eradicating bugs, it has long-term effects that simply aren’t worth the miniscule benefits. And even those benefits have been called into question, where claims from companies like Monsanto — which says their crops can deliver higher yields — have been proven wrong again and again.
Organic farming isn’t a new practice, merely a new word. The advent of chemical controls to rid entire fields of insects is only a relatively recent development in the long history of agriculture. And like many other “modern developments”, this one is proving more harmful than good.