A terrifying study found that one in three Americans have detectable levels of a toxic pesticide made from the same ingredient in Agent Orange.
This pesticide – 2,4-D – is linked to cancers, birth defects, and hormonal imbalances – and could wipe out hundreds of endangered species. It’s now sold as a chemical cocktail alongside glyphosate, under the name “Enlist Duo.” And despite its deadly risks, in 2022 the Environmental Protection Agency reapproved Enlist for seven more years. So our legal team immediately got to work and is about to sue the EPA to get it off our shelves.
The anger-stirring admission by EPA that Enlist likely adversely affects 142 species listed as endangered and 97 designated critical habitats brought me back to the words of Rachel Carson, the mother of the environmental movement, written more than half a century ago in Silent Spring. “These… non selective chemicals have the power to kill every insect, the ‘good’ and the ‘bad,’ to still the songs of the birds and the leaping fish… they should not be called insecticides but biocides.”
Carson, born on this day in 1907, helped get biocides like DDT banned through her groundbreaking writings. But new chemicals like neonicotinoids and Enlist insecticides/biocides have taken their place, causing similar ecological havoc. Sadly, our regulatory agencies under the sway of the agrochemical industry have enabled this tragic and continuing environmental destruction.
It is long past due that we in the food and environmental movement adopt Carson’s nomenclature. Let’s not refer to pesticides, whether they are insecticides, herbicides or fungicides, by anything but their real name: biocides. Words do matter.
The “cide” ending in all these terms comes from the Latin caedaremeaning “to kill.” Given that these chemical poisons are designed to kill, that root word is accurate. But using the word pest-icide gives the impression that all these chemicals do is kill “pests,” whether insects, plant, or fungi pests. The pesticides killing bees and song birds puts that delusion to rest. The bee is an insect but not a pest and the song bird is neither an insect nor a pest.
Let’s consider what these biocides are really bringing us: vast areas of this country stripped of all vegetation save for monocultured genetically engineered crops, devoid of flowers, bees, butterflies and song birds, with contaminated rivers and streams with little or no insect life, and fish and frogs and other aquatic life dead or deformed. Then there are the birth defects and cancers in our own children. What word would encompass the catastrophic result of our using nearly a billion pounds of biocides each year? Nothing short of ecocide.