Editor: I understand that there are to be tests of the soil fumigant Chloropicrin in western P.E.I. I am sure that the tests will be well managed, as Chloropicrin is a dangerous chemical, used as a weapon in Word War I. My concern is not with tests, but with the possible future use of soil fumigation on more extensive acreages on the Island.
Fumigation kills almost everything in the soil, not just pests. It changes the extremely complex topsoil into an inert substance that I can only call ânot-soil.â It reduces species diversity to a tiny fraction of that found in well-managed topsoil. This topsoil, which takes hundreds of years to form, can be extinguished in a day. Is it necessary to sacrifice our soil to produce large, attractive and tasteless strawberries, following the California approach?
I am quite aware that farmers, in order to produce a crop, are in a constant battle with pests. While there have been successes, there have also been well-known failures, such as in the widespread use of DDT (or again in warfare) Agent Orange. I think that the lesson is to be extremely careful with the use of synthetic chemicals, not only for human safety but also for ecosystems in total.
There are many thousands of kinds of living things in soil. I firmly believe that there are good biological reasons for such diversity, and that we should be aware and appreciative of such complexity. As my hero Aldo Leopold once said: âTo keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.â
- Ian MacQuarrie, Hazelgrove