Item description for The War on Bugs by Will Allen...
In the nineteenth century, as immigration greatly expanded the American population, demands on crop output increased. Seizing an opportunity to play upon fears of food shortages, chemical companies declared war on bugs and declining soil fertility, the archenemies of the American farmer. By the 1860s, pesticide and fertilizer manufacturers developed highly sophisticated media campaigns. Bugs were touted as a mortal threat to American farms, and quacks promoted miracle cures culled from industrial waste such as whale oil, arsenic, mercury, sulfuric acid, and lead in the form of dusts, granules, and liquid sprays. New fertilizer products also came from industrial waste piles, including potash, sulfur, and sodium nitrate. From the start, farmers and consumers opposed the marketers' noxious shill. But more than a century of collusion among advertisers, editors, scientists, large-scale farmers, government agencies - and even Dr. Seuss - convinced most farmers to use deadly chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, and, more recently, genetically modified organisms. Akin to seminal works on the topic like Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, Arthur Kallet and F. J. Schlink's 100,000,000 Guinea Pigs, and Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, The War on Bugs - richly illustrated with dozens of original advertisements and promotions - details both the chemical industry's relentless efforts and the recurring waves of resistance by generations of consumers, farmers, and activists against toxic food, a struggle that continues today but with deep roots in the long rise of industrial agriculture.
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 0.75" Width: 9" Height: 9" Weight: 2.1 lbs.
Release Date Feb 14, 2007
Publisher Chelsea Green Publishing
ISBN 1933392460 ISBN13 9781933392462
Availability 0 units.
More About Will Allen
After retiring from professional basketball and executive positions at Kentucky Fried Chicken and Procter & Gamble, Will Allen became the CEO of Growing Power. He lives in Milwaukee. Charles Wilson is a journalist and the coauthor with Eric Schlosser of the #1 New York Times bestselling children s book Chew on This: Everything You Don t Want to Know About Fast Food."
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Chemical companies' marketing campaigns that have pushed toxic pesticides and fertilizers on farmers Jun 9, 2008
THE WAR ON BUGS reveals the chemical companies' marketing campaigns that have pushed toxic pesticides and fertilizers on farmers for over 150 years. From the packaging and promoting of toxic wastes as 'miracle' answers to insect infestations to how chemical weapons manufacturers sought to expand their products into the world market by billing them as pesticide answers, THE WAR ON BUGS juxtaposes two centuries' worth of ads with documentation of chemical company actions and farmer reactions alike. Both general-interest lending libraries and those specializing in conservation issues will find this intriguing.
Eating Oil: May 8, 2008
Eating Oil: "The War On Bugs" Sounds A "Pharm Alarm" About the Toxic History of American Agriculture
By Dr. Rob Williams, Vermont Commons editor
Read more about this book at [...]
East Thetford, Vermont's Will Allen of Cedar Circle Farm is no ordinary tiller of the soil. The former marine, jailed for anti-war protests during the Vietnam Era, also possesses a Ph.D. in Anthropology, a long track record as a citizen/activist, and now, a new book brilliantly entitled "The War On Bugs." Allen's story is a remarkable expose, ten years in the making, that highlights the often-sordid relationship among what might be awkwardly termed "corporate agricultural interests," Madison Avenue, and the U.S. Empire's military/industrial complex. Let's collectively call this trio "Big Pharm."
As always, history is a useful starting place. In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, author Jared Diamond coined the term "farmer power" to describe the dramatic increase in land productivity (and economic and political might) that emerged with the Neolithic Revolution in agriculture roughly 10,000 years ago, a series of processes that gave us the very best and worst of human civilization. Allen's analysis in "The War on Bugs" charts the arrival of a second agricultural revolution, which began around the time of the so-called American "Civil War" during the 1860s, when U.S.-based chemical companies declared war on two scourges: bugs of every description, and declining soil fertility.
Allen's great strength lies in combining short and pithy analytical vignettes detailing the various tools and tactics used by an evolving "Big Pharm" industry with a cornucopia of visual material. Each chapter features fascinating historical reproductions harvested from a wide range of U.S. media - newspaper articles, old editorials from farm journals, pseudo-scientific testimonials bought and paid for by Big Pharm interests, and, of course, ever-ubiquitous advertisements (including some early head--turning work by Theodore Geisel - a.k.a. Dr. Seuss - who was employed by the chemical industry early in his career to sell Pharm toxins to an unsuspecting U.S. public. Who knew?).
What makes Allen's work so vital is his exploration of the historical and cultural intersections among a variety of forces: Madison Avenue media marketing, science, corporate power and, most importantly, the process of "farming" itself, a complex and rigorous activity so full of mistaken mythological holes within the fabric of U.S. history that you can drive a John Deere combine harvester through it. Simply stated, farming is incredibly hard work, made more so by forces way beyond the control of individual farmers -weather, crop prices, and the price of fuel - to name but three. The great genius of Big Pharm interests, and "The War On Bugs" highlights it, comes with their use of what Allen calls a "four part sales model" to get farmers "hooked" on their products. To whit: beginning in the mid-19th century, Big Pharm editorials in various farm journals planted the seeds of interest in new chemical-intensive products and processes; scientific testimonials by so-called "experts" (often citing studies paid for by Big Pharm interests) watered the seeds; saturation advertising by well-funded marketers nurtured interest even further; and finally, farmer testimonials about "Big Pharm" success helped seal the deal.
And, let's be honest about the results. In one sense, oil/chemical based fertilizers and pesticides ushered in a remarkable era in food productivity during these past 150 years. The only reason why today's 21st century planet can afford to carry close to 7 billion human inhabitants is because of the so-called "Green Revolution" in agriculture. Literally, as Dale Allen Pfeiffer states, we in the West "eat oil," as consumers eating in the midst of the most fossil-fuel-intensive agricultural system the world has ever seen. Allen's book makes it clear that we've been "eating oil" for longer than most of us realize, and that the high costs of doing so - from rampant toxin-related illnesses and death; to the chemical poisoning of our air, water, and landscapes; to the centralizing of corporate commercial political and economic power - are worth considering.
It would be a mistake to romanticize small-scale subsistence farming. Perhaps more of a mistake, however, is to ignore the history and the trade-offs of Big Pharm's "war on bugs." If ever there was a historical argument for cultivating thoughtful localvore living, food sovereignty, and homestead security moving into the 21st century, this book is it.