Pandawa Agri Indonesia Web Series

Pesticide - Will the history repeat?

Holaaa! Welcome to Pandawa Agri Indonesia Web Series. This webseries will tell you about “Why Pesticide Reductant was born?”. There will be interesting experiences in each episode and in the next minutes you will enjoy the beginning of the modern pesticide story. Enjoy!

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Pesticide - Will the history repeat?

Have you ever thought that our grandparents look like babies? The fact that neither the babies nor our grandparents had any teeth, and also their crankiness and fragility, led us to give special attention to them. Well, from the facts above, it’s proven that there are cycles in life.

In this world, you could say that history repeats itself, just like how the human life cycle works. Like the disease that has hit people, less than a hundred years ago, the world had to deal with an insect threat to people.

Then pesticides saved the day, and everything went back to normal. Today, the COVID-19 outbreak is back, but this time the vaccine has saved the day, and things are starting to get back to normal. Have you ever considered this? Do you think history is repeating itself, or are we just having a “Déjà vu” moment?

The History Repeat and Déjà vu

If you’ve ever felt or seen something and thought that it happened to you but it didn’t, then you’re experiencing Déjà vu.

When the first Covid-19 vaccine was invented, everyone around the world, including us, was required to use the vaccine so that the Covid-19 virus could be controlled. At the same time, while we are fighting the Covid-19 virus, we are also struggling with food crises, hunger, human conflicts, declining biodiversity, global warming and other issues we face today.

Let’s look back to the past when insects attacked humans and the history of pesticides. Is it like history repeating itself or are we experiencing Déjà vu?!

Throwback to the past, shall we?

Before we find out if this is history repeating itself or if we’re getting Déjà vu, let’s introduce a Swiss scientist named Paul Muller. In 1939 when he discovered Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane or what we know as DDT, it was the most effective insecticide that could control various pests such as ticks, Colorado beetles, and mosquitoes at that time.

Due to its effectiveness, Paul Muller’s invention fought the food crisis in his country, Switzerland. Not stopping there, the World War II that occurred at the same time also brought other crises to humans such as malaria and typhus spread by insects. DDT took their role to control infectious diseases very well.

Year : Case
1940 : 2.191 
1941 : 245
1942 : 369
1943 : 12?
1944 : 141
1945 : 1874

Year : Case
1940 : 2
1941 : 846

Year : Case
1940 : 256
1941 : 115
1942 : 907
1943 : 12.885
1944 : 6.436
1945 : 826

Year : Case
1940 : 3.636
1941 : 9.324
1942 : 32.288 
1943 : 40.084
1944 : 18.533
1945 : 15.746

Year : Case
1940 : 3.636
1941 : 9.324
1942 : 32.288 
1943 : 40.084
1944 : 18.533
1945 : 15.746

Year : Case
1940 : 716
1941 : 704
1942 : 427
1943 : 4.234
1944 : 3.121
1945 : 2.700

Year : Case
1940 : 2.146
1941 : 12.827
1942 : 35.205
1943 : 8.321
1944 : 1.770
1945 : 1.024

Year : Case
1940 : 651
1941 : 7.078
1942 : 16.295
1943 : 356?
1944 : 1.007
1945 : 403

Year : Case
1940 : 355
1941 : 1.471
1942 : 25.846
1943 : 16.191
1944 : 2.928
1945 : 8.243

Year : Case
1940 : 14
1941 : 9.560
1942 : 4.144
1943 : 640
1944 : 498
1945 : 27

Year : Case
1941 : 2
1942 : 230
1944 : 11?
1945 : 303

Year : Case
1943 : 699+
1944 : 1.215+
1945 : 198

Year : Case
1940 : 1.403
1941 : 1.827
1942 : 3.992
1943 : 8.441
1944 : 6.000+
1945 : 8.244

Year : Case
1940 : 155
1941 : 281
1942 : 709
1943 : 1.843
1944 : 702
1945 : 979

Year : Case
1940 : 282
1941 : 86
1944 : 8.243
1945 : 2.285

Year : Case
1940 : 43
1941 : 7
1943 : 99
1944 : 388
1945 : 697

Year : Case
1940 : 93
1941 : 652
1942 : 827
1943 : 1.012
1944 : 3.336

1940 : 12.000
1945 : 14.000

Year : Case
1940 : 230
1941 : 2.158
1942 : 2.043
1943 : 5.058
1944 : 2.467
1945 : 18.000t

Year : Case
1942 : 1
1945 : 26 

Almost a century ago, in 1940s, we had a pandemic called typhus and there were many ways to control it, including DDT. Actually, this plague has appeared in human life since the 19th century to the early 20th century. However, the highest cases took place during World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, and World War II. At that time, there was a massive population movement that caused the plague to spread out of control.

Typhus is an acute fever disease caused by Rickettsia prowazekii. The pathogen is transmitted by lice, Pediculus humanus that bite human skin. These lice like to live on human clothes, and with the help of massive population movements, the typhus pandemic spread easily. Infected people experienced high fever, fainting, and in serious conditions led to human death. This typhus spread across Europe, Africa, and Asia.

The following crisis that almost coincides with typhus is malaria. Actually, malaria is still a problem today in the world, including Indonesia. However, during World War II, malaria became the disease that infected the most soldiers. Data from Army Heritage published that 60-65% of World War II soldiers in Asia Pacific were infected with malaria.

When it was discovered that malaria was brought by the Anopheles mosquito, the use of DDT immediately spread widely throughout the world. The results are in line with expectations, the spread of malaria had been controlled in many areas.

DDT saved human from the food crisis happened in Swiss in the war era. In 1942, a pound per capita of DDT saved potato crops from the Colorado Beetle that had spread across the farm. The effectiveness of DDT helped farmers combat the beetle invasion and saved the Swiss people from a severe food crisis.

That’s how DDT emerged as a superhero in history. Although before DDT was born, there were already insecticides, but no insecticide had the ability like DDT that could control pests and not harm mammals. Paul Muller as the inventor of DDT developed an insecticide that was safe for mammals, fish, birds, and plants according to his expectations. In his research, DDT is odorless, affordable, and chemically stable so it lasts long in the environment. Because of this stability, DDT had a significant impact on the world in its history.

DDT is too good to be true?!

DDT, the invention that saved millions of human lives continues to make history on its way. A more shocking episode is coming and it is not good news to hear. A new chapter on DDT has been reversed, from hero to villain in history.

The wide spread use of DDT has caused the decline of eagle populations in the United States. This phenomenon disrupted the balance of the natural food chain as DDT residues accumulated in soil, water and air in large quantities. The eagle as the top of the food chain is contaminated with DDT through fish as its food source. As a result, the eggs produced by the eagles became fragile and the number of eagles decreased significantly.

Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring (1962) enlightened the world about the effects of the massive use of DDT. Regulations on DDT were issued soon after the book went viral. By 1972, DDT was banned in the United States and other countries followed suit.

Today, the use of DDT is banned in many countries around the world. However, even though DDT is banned, it is still used in emergency conditions due to its effectiveness in controlling diseases such as malaria.

In Uganda (till 2011), high malaria cases are still controlled with DDT. As a result of the agriculture there, farmers in Uganda who are famous for their organic crops are indicated to be contaminated with DDT. Europe as the main market for Ugandan farmers did not buy their crops.

Not much different from Uganda, Indonesia also used DDT in malaria control. Until 1990, Indonesia stopped using DDT and switched to other pesticides that contained fewer toxic chemicals.

After decades of DDT prohibition in Indonesia, DDT residues are still found in the soil in amounts that exceed the maximum residue level. This is due to DDT’s persistent chemical substance that is difficult to degrade. DDT takes tens to hundreds of years to degrade depending on climate and soil conditions.

Pesticide Today

Back to the present, pesticides are evolving more and more. Until 2020, 659 pesticides were categorized based on their level of danger to human health and the environment. The Pandawa Agri team found an interesting fact that currently around 2 million tons of pesticides are used annually globally. 50% are herbicides (glyphosate, paraquat, active ingredients of grass poison), 30% insecticides (neonicotinoids, active ingredients of insecticides), 18% fungicides, the rest rodenticides and nematicides.

Regulations on pesticide use continue to be issued to protect the environment, animals and humans. We can already see and feel the disruption of the natural balance. For example, the food crisis that occurred due to the declining bee population. However, despite the ban on pesticide use, the demand for pesticide use continues to increase, especially in developing countries.

Are you sure pesticides led to catastrophe?

After you read this article and looking at today’s phenomenon, do you think this is a repeat of history or just a feeling of dejavu?

Are pesticides the villains or will they become heroes again like their life cycle?
Or is it actually humans who have a big part to play in determining whether pesticides will become villains or heroes?

In the next episode, we will find out how unpleasant things happened after pesticides were discovered? Is it true that pesticides are the cause? Stay tuned for the next episode! See ya!

Source : 

  • health and food.pdf

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Pandawa Agri Indonesia is the first life-science-based company from Indonesia and is currently the only one that has innovation in the development of pesticide-reducing products (pesticide reductants). Starting from this innovation, Pandawa Agri Indonesia is committed to helping agricultural business actors to realize agricultural practices that are sustainable, environmentally friendly, safe for users, and also cost-efficient.

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