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Could Organic Farming Threaten Our Food Supply?

• August 08, 2011 • 9:30 AM

Pest ecologist Scott Merrill discusses the bizarre adaptions of insects who feast on our crops, and how some organic farming practices may make life easier for them.

Untold numbers of species are threatened by extinction due to people.

Yet, a class of animals is thriving, despite humans’ best efforts to wipe them out: agricultural insect pests. And these pests pose a serious threat to global food supplies. Insects like the desert locust and the Russian wheat aphid can very quickly destroy the farm production from vast areas.

What is it about the biology of these animals that allows them to survive whatever people can throw at them? In this podcast, Dr. Scott Merrill discusses the often bizarre adaptations of insect pests, like the Russian wheat aphid, which is already pregnant when it is born.

Merrill, a pest ecologist at Colorado State University, also addresses what stands in the way of staying one step ahead of agricultural pests. Surprisingly, organic agriculture is near the top of the list. Organic practices potentially allow agricultural pests to build resistance to a range of control strategies, threatening the future of the food supply.

Click to hear podcast

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Music used in the podcast includes Bring It On No Vox by Jamie Miller and David Matheson; and Ana by His Boy Elroy.


Jai Ranganathan
Dr. Jai Ranganathan is a biologist and his research focuses on questions of species conservation. He can be reached at jai.ranganathan at

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