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CyberDodo and Pesticides (1-51)

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In response to this question, let us first look at the actual word pesticides: peste (from the Latin ‘pestis'), which describes something harmful and cide (from the Latin ‘cadere'), which means ‘to kill'. Therefore they are used to eliminate serious threats, but what exactly are we talking about here?

Since man first became interested in agriculture, he had to face countless difficulties so as to get good harvests, notably: insects, mushrooms, weeds, etc.

Pesticides indeed originated because it was vital for our ancestors to protect themselves against the risk of food deprivation caused by pests (as we call them today) which attacked their crops.

This need was totally legitimate, even more so if we were to consider the very low environmental footprint mankind had at that stage.

What is a pesticide?

Directly following on the above paragraph, pesticides are a description of all substances used to fight against pests that attack crops. Insecticides, herbicides, parasiticides and fungicides all fall within this description.

How has the usage of pesticides evolved?

As new discoveries were made over time, and also as a result of what we usually refer to as ‘development'. From one generation to another, man enriched his knowledge and extended the range of resources at his disposal to fight against his enemies.

We will then later see that the term ‘enemies' is by no means a mistake...

Several thousands of years ago, man already knew how to use arsenic and sulphur, and then other substances, all of natural origin, were added to this arsenal over the centuries.

But the major turning point in the utilisation of pesticides occurred at the beginning of the 20th century when studies were conducted particularly on chemical weapons for use in the first world war (1914-1918). After that, using chemicals, it was possible to synthesise molecules and create compounds without the use of natural resources.

From that time, and with the help of this fledgling science, new pesticides were constantly being developed until quantities rose to the shocking figure of more than 100,000 commercial products sold and particularly distributed throughout the world, with potentially tragic consequences... 

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