Alternatives to insecticides: High impact solutions without environmental trade-offs
Date & Time
The first forum of the Ethics Center’s 2012 Silent Spring Series focused on biological alternatives to insecticide use in American agriculture that would eliminate adverse environmental effects and appeal to consumers’ needs. Professor Stephen Welter, the Vice President for Research at San Diego State University (SDSU) and a long-time professor of Entomology at UC Berkeley, spoke at the forum on October 17, and presented his research on economically sustainable alternatives to pesticides. The forum was moderated by Stanley Maloy, a professor of Microbiology and the Dean of the College of Sciences at SDSU.
Welter stressed the trade-offs required for consumer safety, consumerist appeal, and environmental safety. Insecticides have become an integral aspect of the agricultural system because people working in agriculture are faced with the dilemma of producing what customers want in an economic way.
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To watch a full video of the program, please visit UCSD-TV here.
Read the Voice of San Diego Op-Ed on this program:
A New Answer to the Same Dilemmas? 50 Years After Rachel Carson (Op-Ed)
San Diego State University
Professor Welter received a BS in Entomology from the University of California, Davis, and a PhD in Entomology from the University of California, Riverside. His first position was as Assistant Professor in the Department of Zoology at San Diego State University. After 3 years, he joined the Entomology Department at UC Berkeley. Over the next 27 years, he advanced to Full Professor while also serving at different periods as Department Chair, Associate Dean of Student Affairs, and Executive Associate Dean for the College of Natural Resources. For 14 years, he taught a course titled Environmental Issues, which combined multiple disciplinary approaches within a strong ethical framework to help students understand the complexity and tradeoffs associated with many environmental problems. His contribution to teaching was recognized by the Berkeley campus with the Distinguished Teaching Award. In November of 2011, Welter returned to SDSU as Vice President for Research.
Professor Welter’s research focus has been plant-insect interactions and development of alternatives to insecticides in agricultural systems. Research projects have included the use of naturally occurring biological control agents to regulate insect populations in crops and the use of sex pheromones to disrupt the reproduction of insects. The research on mating disruption using pheromones was part of a large collaborative project spanning almost 2 decades involving multiple universities, organic and conventional growers, federal and state agencies, and the private sectors. Using this approach, current estimates for apples and pears suggest that in season pesticide use against the target species was reduced by approximately 75% on greater than 50% of the acreage in the western US. These efforts resulted in an award for innovation from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation as well as technology transfer awards from the USDA. Professor Welter has been involved with helping to disseminate this approach to other growing regions in the world such as Argentina and Chile.