The vast majority of Americans are uncomfortable with the use of chemical pesticides. That attitude is understandable, given how pesticides have been used in the past half-century. Ill-considered applications of toxic or environmentally persistent chemicals have caused serious health problems and extensive environmental damage. But at the same time, Americans take for granted the year-round abundant supply of fresh, affordable food, including a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, at their local supermarkets. Consumers may not want to acknowledge it, but the fact remains that a safe and plentiful food supply is, in part, a result of pesticide use.

Today's pesticides, however, are very different from the sensational headline makers of years past. Many of the most destructive pesticides have been driven from the marketplace--thanks to advances in chemistry that reduce adverse impacts and to tougher regulations that protect human health and the environment. But pesticides remain a necessary tool...

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