Agriculture or man’s ability to domesticate and modify plants and animals to suit our large-scale nutritional needs is an age-old science. There is the good – planting, raising and harvesting life sustaining crops like cereals, and livestock animals like beef, swine, and poultry. There is the bad – mass farming, corporate farming, the increased use of medicines, pesticides, and herbicides in order to maximize harvest (to feed a growing population). And there is the ugly – communicable diseases spread on livestock facilities, veal, and the cancerous side-effects of some medicines, pesticides, and herbicides.
No simple problems means no simple solutions can be offered.
But bugs have always been a special thing in Agriculture.
The good – many insects are essential for pollinating crops. Honey bees are our friend. That’s why the mystery of the declining bee population is so scary. Yeah, we see farmers on trackers planting rows of corn, wheat, rice, and such, but those seeds are produced in a lab. No, those seeds are made the old-fashioned way –boom chicka boom boom – pollination in the great wide outdoors. Bees, flies, wasps, and butterflies visit the flowers of these plants. (Yes, they have flowers. That fuzzy, hairy stuff that sticks from the top of the plants in the summer – those are flowers.) Insects visit them to collect nectar and spread pollen around. And that’s sex for plants. The seeds are made. At harvest time the plants are collected and so are the seeds. In a more natural agriculture system, farmers let the seeds drop and re-plant themselves. Others harvest it and replant it. Classic example: Corn kernels – those are corn seeds. Farmers save some ears of corn and plant them the next year.
The bad – many insects devour and destroy crops. Japanese Beetles are not our friend. They are responsible for over $450 million of damage to crops and trees every year! But thanks to good old-fashioned scientific inquiry, we’re learning more about their natural habits, in particular their mating habits. As we learn more about them we can tackle this problem without doing more harm than good.