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Silent Spring - book review

Silent Spring was written in 1962 at a time when herbicides and pesticides had just started to enter mainstream production. They were being used indiscriminately and the devastating effects were starting to be obvious. It is shocking now to read that chemicals which are no longer available for general use were once sprayed out of aeroplanes, over forests, lakes, cities, and farms. These chemicals killed insects, birds, fish, domestic pets, farm animals, and no doubt, caused many people to get sick, if not die, as a result. And even with this clear evidence of the danger of such chemicals, Silent Spring was accused (and still is) of being hysterical and exaggerating the risk. In my view, Rachel Carson was far ahead of her time, in using the limited understanding of genomics and human metabolism at the time to predict that many of these chemicals were primary causes of cancer, as well as various environmental and health problems. This is a case of profit being put before human and environmental health, and it disgusts me that Rachel’s warnings were discredited so widely by the chemical industry.



Many of the chemicals discussed in Silent Spring are now banned because they have since been found to be too dangerous for routine use, but this does not render the book irrelevant. Firstly, it puts in context the amount that chemical use has been limited since the book was published and shows that we need to take seriously such warnings in future. We also should never be blasé about chemicals that are registered for general use. Just because you can buy something now, doesn’t mean that some new piece of information will result in the same chemical being deemed dangerous in the future. All farm chemicals must be treated with respect, if they MUST be used, all precautions to prevent contact with the chemical must be taken.



One thing that really struck me was the idea that these chemicals become absorbed into the cells of plants and animals with which they come into contact. That means any food that has been sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, no matter if it was within the recommended residue or with-holding period, will still contain trace (or maybe more) amounts of chemicals.  Any animal that has come into contact with the spray, or eaten plants that were sprayed, will also have those chemicals in its system long after they have left the environment.  The thing about organic chemicals is that many of them are endocrine (hormone system) disrupters, and that means that even trace amounts are dangerous.  Even though we don’t use any chemicals directly on our animals, if we are feeding them non-organic hay or grain, they will be receiving a dose of chemical anyway. It is so frustrating that food producers don’t have to tell us what chemicals have been used on our food.  To me this make organic produce no longer a "nice to have if you can afford it" idea, but really an essential for good health.

If you are interested in the history of chemical use and a long long list of case studies listing the detrimental effects from early chemical use, Silent Spring is a relatively easy, though shocking, read.  Have you read it?  Any thoughts on chemical vs organic farming?


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Comments

  1. I have read this book but it was decades ago. It's truths are just as profound and more urgent than ever before. It amazes me that folks can't think through the consequences. If we poison the earth, then ____. I wonder what they think is going to happen?

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    1. yes it shocks me too, like they think we humans are so different from the rest of nature we are immune to chemicals that kill everything else...

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  2. I have not come across this book,must now see if I can track it down. So, so correct on all you write Liz,sad to think that basically we are ruled by drug and chemical companies. Both having no thought for anything other than the almighty Dollar.

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  3. Actually, yes, it should be the pesticide users who are legally required to do the labeling and organic food should not need to be labeled.

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  4. This book was mentioned during the climate change course that I took. I wrote down the name so that I could find it one day but I haven't looked yet. Thanks for the write-up.

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  5. A good post and great review. I read this book many years ago and we're still not getting it, as a whole, are we?

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  6. Thanks for the comments everyone, hope you can get hold of a copy yourselves... and spread the word, maybe in another 50 years we might have figured out that if a chemical kills a plant or animal it can also kill us.....

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  7. Your book is provides a lot of knowledge what will be the effects of chemicals but it will be more clarified if we join Farm Chemical Users Course for improvement of our knowledge..........

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Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, but I don't always get time to reply right away. If you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com

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