History of PGRs

Since before 2000 BC, humans have utilized pesticides to protect their crops. The first known pesticide was elemental sulphur dusting used in ancient Sumer about 4,500 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia. By the 15th century, toxic chemicals such as arsenic, mercury and lead were being applied to crops to kill pests. In the 17th century, nicotine sulphate was extracted from tobacco leaves for use as an insecticide. The 19th century saw the introduction of two more natural pesticides, pyrethrum, which is derived from chrysanthemums, and rotenone, which is derived from the roots of tropical vegetables.56

The use of plant growth regulators in agricultural production within the United States began in the 1930s.17 The first discovery and use of plant growth regulators was with acetylene and ethylene, which enhanced flower production in pineapple. Subsequently, use of plant growth regulators has grown exponentially to become a major component of agricultural commodity production. Certain herbicides and insecticides that are not true plant growth regulators cause some plant-growth-regulating effects. For example, the widely used insecticide carbaryl is used to thin apple fruit from trees and to aid in encouraging annual bearing.17

Until the 1950s, arsenic-based pesticides were dominant.57> Paul Müller discovered that DDT was a very effective insecticide. Organochlorines such as DDT were dominant, but they were replaced in the U.S. by organophosphates and carbamates by 1975. Since then, pyrethrin compounds have become the dominant insecticide.57 Herbicides became common in the 1960s, led by "triazine and other nitrogen-based compounds, carboxylic acids such as 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, and glyphosate".57

The first legislation providing federal authority for regulating pesticides was enacted in 1910;58 however, decades later during the 1940s manufacturers began to produce large amounts of synthetic pesticides and their use became widespread.50 Some sources consider the 1940s and 1950s to have been the start of the "pesticide era."59 Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was established in 1970 and amendments to the pesticide law in 1972,60pesticide use has increased 50-fold since 1950 and 2.3 million tonnes (2.5 million short tons) of industrial pesticides are now used each year.56 Seventy-five percent of all pesticides in the world are used in developed countries, but use in developing countries is increasing.[18] In 2001 the EPA stopped reporting yearly pesticide use statistics. A study of USA pesticide use trends through 1997 was published in 2003 by the National Science Foundation's Center for Integrated Pest Management.57 61

In the 1960s, it was discovered that DDT was preventing many fish-eating birds from reproducing, which was a serious threat to biodiversity. Rachel Carson wrote the best-selling book Silent Spring about biological magnification. The agricultural use of DDT is now banned under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, but it is still used in some developing nations to prevent malaria and other tropical diseases by spraying on interior walls to kill or repel mosquitoes.62

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  • 17http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pi139
  • 18Miller GT (2004), Sustaining the Earth, 6th edition. Thompson Learning, Inc. Pacific Grove, California. Chapter 9, Pages 211-216.
  • 50Daly H, Doyen JT, and Purcell AH III (1998), Introduction to insect biology and diversity, 2nd edition. Oxford University Press. New York, New York. Chapter 14, Pages 279-300.
  • 56Miller, GT (2002). Living in the Environment (12th Ed.). Belmont: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning. ISBN 0-534-37697-5
  • 57Ritter SR. (2009). Pinpointing Trends In Pesticide Use In 1939. C&E News.
  • 58Goldman, L.R. (2007). "Managing pesticide chronic health risks: U.S. policies." Journal of Agromedicine. 12 (1): 57-75. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.silk.library.umass.edu:2048/pubmed/18032337
  • 5959 Graeme Murphy (December 1, 2005), Resistance Management - Pesticide Rotation. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Retrieved on September 15, 2007.
  • 60http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.silk.library.umass.edu:2048/pubmed/18032337
  • 61Arnold L. Aspelin (February, 2003), PESTICIDE USAGE IN THE UNITED STATES: Trends During the 20th Century. NSF CIPM Technical Bulletin 105. Retrieved on October 28, 2010.
  • 62Lobe, J (Sept 16, 2006), "WHO urges DDT for malaria control Strategies," Inter Press Service, cited from Commondreams.org. Retrieved on September 15, 2007.

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