From silent spring to silent night: Agrochemicals and the anthropocene

“There is probably no place on earth that is not affected by pesticides.” Time for “Rights of Nature” to be enacted everywhere…..

From silent spring to silent night: Agrochemicals and the Anthropocene  click on above link for full report


Tyrone B. Hayes , Martin Hansen

Laboratory for Integrative Studies in Amphibian Biology, Group in Endocrinology, Molecular Toxicology, Energy and Resources Group, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, and Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, CA, US


We are now living in the Anthropocene, the first time in Earth’s history when synthetic chemicals—created by humans—are damaging the planet and contributing to a major loss of biodiversity. Pesticides are a particular problem in this regard. Agricultural practices changed dramatically following World War II. Methods for the production of nitrogen for manufacturing explosives were adapted for use as fertilizer in agriculture. Further, chemicals used to combat insect vectors for disease during World War II were adapted for the control of insect pests in agriculture. Eventually, herbicides used as defoliants to destroy food supplies and aid in combating soldiers using forests as cover, were customized to control weeds in agriculture. The heavy use of pesticides in agriculture has resulted in global exposure to these chemicals. Travelling through water, air, and in migrating animals, pesticides can be found in drinking water reservoirs, the atmosphere, on mountain tops, and even in remote areas in the Arctic where they are not used.

The widespread exposure to agrichemicals has altered landscapes and ecosystems around the world. In addition to directly killing non-target organisms, target and non-target organisms can evolve resistance to pesticides, resulting in altered gene pools. Further, emerging data demonstrate that even low— formerly considered “non-toxic”— concentrations of pesticides can impact health, physiology, reproduction and development through endocrine-disrupting effects. The development of genetically modified crops that are resistant to pesticides and that produce pesticides themselves, and the financial incentive of the chemical companies that produce the genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have resulted in increased pesticide applications.

There is probably no place on earth that is not affected by pesticides. The solution is the adoption of integrated pest management practices that reduce the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers in agriculture and the decoupling of the agrichemical and seed industry.

Knowledge Domain: Sustainability Transitions
How to Cite: Hayes TB, Hansen M. From silent spring to silent night: Agrochemicals and the anthropocene. Elem Sci Anth. 2017;5:57. DOI: