Pesticide Treadmill and Why it is a Concern to Farmers and Consumers

Consider what you have learned about natural selection and mutation concerning health issues like TB and head lice, and apply it to pesticide use and farming. Explain what is meant by a “pesticide treadmill” and why it is a concern to farmers and consumers.

Many diseases persist in human populations because of a balance between mutation, genetic drift, and natural selection. For example, Tuberculosis has existed for many years despite the development of powerful antibiotic therapy and various scientific breakthroughs in history owing to its ability to develop resistance to antibiotics by way of random mutations and natural selections. While mutation works by altering gene frequencies by introducing new alleles, natural selection is the differential survival based on phenotype. Like disease pathogens, pests have also developed resistance to various chemical formulations through mutation and natural selection. Therefore, farmers must either retain regular pesticide application routines or continually pay for more potent and expensive agricultural chemicals or pesticide-resistant crops, a process known as pesticide treadmill.

In essence, a pesticide treadmill indicates a situation in which farmers are compelled to continue applying pesticides frequently since they have become an indispensable part of the agricultural cycle9Sherman, 2007, p. 238). This often occurs when planters and ranchers use pesticides on crops and animals such that other natural remedies no longer work effectively. Usually, pests become resistant to weaker remedies because of genetic mutations that allow them to transform into drug-resistant pests. A severe aspect of a positive treadmill occurs when the cycle escalates. The elimination of one insect pest can lead to the flourishing of other types of pests, therefore necessitating the farmer to use other forms of pesticides.

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