BENEFITS OF PESTICIDES
1. Spectrum of Effectiveness - When applied properly, pesticides are extremely effective at what they do - controlling the populations of pest species. Oftentimes the most effective way to use pesticides is moderately - heavy applications to a given area can cause some of the problems listed in the other column.
2. Disease Control - Many diseases travel through pest species that are immune to them and are transported into more susceptible organisms, such as humans. These pest species are known as disease vectors, and can be eliminated by pesticides, thus protecting other organisms from harmful diseases.
3. Agricultural Augmentation - There are numerous benefits in this one specific area alone, but one of them is that when pesticides are applied to crops, they are able to grow more healthily because pests are no longer able to feed of them, or lay their eggs on them, thus causing further damage when they hatch.
RISKS OF PESTICIDES
1. Pest Resistance - Members of a pest species can build up resistances or immunities to certain pesticides after being exposed to them for long periods of time. While the weaker members of the species die out, the stronger survive and continue to propagate, boosting the strength of the entire species in general.
2. Secondary Pest Resurgence - Sometimes a pest species targeted by a pesticide is almost completely destroyed. However, this pest species was also the predator of another smaller species, and now that the original pests are gone, the secondary species propagates out of control, becoming the new pest species.
3. Collateral Toxicity - Being a toxic poison by nature, direct contact by non-target species can result in toxic poisoning and harm or death, but rarely death for humans. Indirectly, pesticides can kill off many predator animals that originally fed on the pests, allowing them to grow in number.
This is a hard question to answer because it really depends upon your
definitions and your expectations.
Genetic engineering is really a set of tools used to manipulate the genes of
an organism. However when people use the term, it gets used in 2 different
ways. The original meaning was really the application of recombinant DNA
technology to study genes or engineer gene products to make useful things or
to use in scientific experiments in order to better understand the way
Using that definition, one would say that genetic engineering is a very
powerful and useful tool. It allows scientists to make discoveries and learn
about biological processes that would otherwise be impossible. The only real
disadvantage would only be if the method were to be abused. For example to
create new biological warfare agents or things like that.
More recently, as our scientific skills have advanced, genetic engineering
has come to refer to the genetic engineering of an orgranism. Introducing
new genes into an organism or ever the most recent techniques of animal
The advantages are the immense power these methods bring to scientists in
doing experiments to understand how organsisms work and function, and to
better understand diseases and possible treatments. We are also getting
close to the time when gene therapy becomes reasonable for more than a few
I think for medical applications there are great advantages because it opens
up entire new vistas of possibilities. The disadvantages are no different
than for any other new drug or new therapy. It takes time to understand all
the long term implications, side effects etc. This is just the nature of any
new therapy, and not really specific to gene therapy.
When it comes to more mundane applications such as in agriculture, a lot
more issues come to play. Certainly genetic engineering has the capacity to
improve crops or animals, provide disease resistance, change fertilizer or
pesticide uses, etc. There are many potential benefits. The disadvantages
are much the same as for any industrially driven advance in agriculture.
Some company wants to make money off it (after all, they developed it) and
therefore there will be an economic cost associated with it. Generally if
the product is successful, the increased cost should be offset by increased
productivity or savings elsewhere. But these downsides are similar for any
advances in agri-business.
Are there other disadvantages. Well, to my mind the main problem is that we
don't always know the full implications of what is being done. I don't think
there is necessarily more danger in genetic engineering crops than any other
traditional breeding programs, except that things can go faster. But there
really are no hard and fast statements one can make about dangers or
disadvantages. Most of the discussion really comes down to political
philosophies and how someone deals with "What if?" types of questions where
we dont' know if there is a problem but one can easily construct a scenario
where a problem might arise. Therefore it`s up to you to evaluate that.