Adaptation and resistance to chemicals (natural and synthetic) are normal and natural processes. It’s what Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is based on. When faced with an inhibiting environment, we adapt to overcome it. It’s the basis of all addictive behaviour including drug addiction.
Chemical resistance is where an insect (or plant or microbe or animal or person) adapts to its exposure to a chemical and forms an immunity to the harmful effects of that chemical. For example, research suggests the diamondback moth has formed a resistance to the natural plant based chemical compounds called glucosinolates. These are naturally occurring metabolites in a species of plant called Barbarea vulgaris (Land Cress).
Originally, eons ago glucosinolates effectively defended Barbarea vulgaris against the diamondback moth larvae who chomped on her leaves. Those same metabolites are still effective against some herbivore insects such as the white cabbage moth larvae. However, theorists suggest that in response to the diamondback moth’s adaptation, Barbarea vulgaris also adapted and created a newer metabolite called saponins.
The diamond back moth hasn’t adapted to saponins… yet. Those natural processes take eons. These are extremely complicated processes. In trying to duplicate them we’ve caused the diamondback moth to become resistant to pretty much every synthetic insecticide on the planet. More about that in my blog on susceptible and resistant plants.
Synthetic chemicals increases the rate of creature resistance
In creating synthetic chemicals with one or more active ingredients we’ve attempted to mimic natural systems that developed over eons. We’ve deconstructed complex natural processes, simplified them and produced synthetic copies of key active ingredients. We’ve thought we’re clever but now we’re paying the price for our hubris.
Resistance to chemicals is a serious issue because it means we are co-creating creatures that are stronger, more robust and more resilient. This evolution is occurring in a matter of decades rather than eons.
We are co-creating super creatures. This may sound dramatic, we may say ‘For gods sake, Amber, they’re only bugs!’. But think about. These bugs we’re co-creating are the same bugs we’re trying to control simply because they eat our plants… they chomp on our monoculture and soil depleted crops.
So instead of feeding the soil, industry has developed with a view that these herbivore insects are pests. They’re treated as pests and enemies of humanity and the farmer. Yet, my polyculture garden with nutrient and microbial rich soil doesn’t tend to get targeted by many herbivore insects. Most organic gardeners say the same thing.
We’re creating the problem by the methods of farming we’ve used over the last 60 years since WW2. We’re trying to solve it by creating more chemicals that kill bugs rather than to look at the real issue – the depleted soil and the massive monocultural crops that lack species diversity.
Our population is exploding and our crops are failing. Pest resistance is growing, more research and development is being done, more synthetic chemicals poured on and we’re all just getting sick. We’re not looking to nature despite her age, her complexity and her embracing nature.
We’re too busy being busy and too busy accumulating material stuff.
Meanwhile bugs, bacteria, viruses and others are building resistance, becoming immune and increasingly affecting humans in destructive ways.
Is resistance being taken seriously by the agricultural industry?
The agricultural industry appears to be taking chemical resistance seriously. However, when we look deeper, one starts to question…
Croplife.org.au is a key body in Australia working to delay resistance. Note: delay resistance not stop resistance. Resistance is a natural phenomena. Yet how seriously are authorities taking the issue when their websites continue to tell us that pesticides are safe?
Croplife International is the global group with a mission to delay resistance as well. They speak of many things including pesticides and Integrated Pest Management. That site also has a host of examples and case studies as to why organic doesn’t work… That site contains only one article that I can find (at the date of writing this blog) that speaks of healthy soil creating a healthy crop and healthy planet.
The IRAC (Insecticide Resistance Action Committee) is a specialist group of Croplife. The IRAC states that it took houseflies 7 years to become resistant to DDT. According to IRAC, some insects become resistant to insecticide chemicals after just 2 years of exposure.
That’s extremely fast evolution. One wonders if we corporate backed humans are capable of such quick adaptation to reality.