A columnist for The Christian Science Monitor argues that DDT damages plants, too — more reasons not to release it into the wild.
DDT stunts food crops? Plants? Is that accurate?
For the past several years, Jennifer E. Fox at the University of Oregon in Eugene has used test tube experiments to study the subtle way pesticides impede this nitrogen-fixing process. Last June she joined several colleagues to report research with real plants. Their paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that the pesticides block the bacteria recruitment “signal” that legumes emit. “In essence,” Dr. Fox says, “the agrichemicals are cutting the lines of communication between the host plants and symbiotic bacteria.”
This has serious implications for farmers. Heavy use of commercial nitrogen fertilizers is showing diminishing returns in terms of crop yields, while fertilizer runoff contaminates streams, lakes, and even coastal ocean areas. If legumes can’t do their natural fertilizing job, even more artificial fertilizer will be required.