Leonard Gianessi, director of CropLife Foundation’s Crop Protection Research Institute, has been educating others on the benefits of pesticides for more than 30 years. Leonard frequently gives presentations at CropLife America member companies and other organizations, and in March of this year began posting various studies on the benefits of crop protection products on the blog “Pesticide Guy.”
CropLife America sat down with Leonard to ask a few questions about the blog and the changing face of modern agriculture.
Q: What do you think is the greatest benefit of using crop protection products?
A: With pesticides we get more yields and more food. We get fruits and vegetables that are important for good health. We never had the kind of widespread access to fruits and vegetables that we do now until we started using pesticides. Herbicides have reduced the need for tillage, which saves soil, water and energy. I think the greatest benefit is that pesticides eliminate insects that carry diseases and can ruin produce.
Q: What motivated you to start the Pesticide Guy blog? Have readers been receptive to it?
A: I was writing very lengthy reports that were sometimes hundreds of pages and I wanted to get things out in a more timely fashion. The blog has been perfect for that. I choose quotes that are exact, salient and interesting. People have been receptive to it. I usually mention the blog at presentations and people will look it up right away.
Q: Have you ever come across a study that particularly surprised you or taught you something new and interesting about pesticides?
A: This year I’ve been looking a lot at China and the country’s use of herbicides. I came across estimates saying that 500 million people are moving from rural to urban areas. The thing that surprised me was the magnitude of that number; they have to feed that many people every day. How are they going to do that without using modern crop protection products?
Q: How do you think representatives of the modern ag industry can better educate consumers about the benefits of crop protection products?
A: I get this question a lot. My recommendation is give more resources to your communications department. Make a movie about the benefits of pesticides. Another thing is, reach out to local audiences, especially high schools and colleges where you can educate young people.
Q: Do you think it’s challenging for people to find information about the benefits of pesticides?
A: Yes! It is difficult and challenging. The majority of research goes towards risk studies instead of benefits studies. Often I’ll speak to audiences that typically know very little about agriculture, are opposed to pesticides and think organic is “cool.” Then after my presentation on the benefits of pesticides, they will come up to me and say, “I’ve never heard this before.”
Q: What do you think is the general public opinion on crop protection products and how has it changed over the years?
A: People are concerned about risks, and their fears are fueled by inaccurate information. There are hardly any farming stories in the news anymore, at least not in big papers like The New York Times. The web is definitely changing the landscape, though.
You can follow the Pesticide Guy blog by clicking here.