Chapter 9: Declining effectiveness of techniques designed to control pests and diseases: economics, evolution and human choices
Human beings have been very successful in developing techniques to control pests and diseases. However, the effectiveness of these techniques often declines with their increased use and the passage of time. Frequently, this is due to the selective evolution of populations of organisms which it is intended to control. This is because, as a result of using the control technique, members of a population which are resistant to this control multiply and increase as a proportion of their population. Also in the case of some higher order organisms (such as elephants), resistance to control techniques can develop as a result of a different mechanism, namely learning and transmission of learnt behaviour to other members of the species, including offspring. It is the basic economics of the evolutionary resistance to control techniques of pests and diseases that is the focus of this chapter.
To a significant extent, the progress of this resistance depends on human decisions about the frequency and duration of the use of control techniques. As a result, very complex social choice problems arise because beneficial use of the technique now has a user cost, namely the cost of the technique being less effective in the future. Therefore, current economic benefits from use of such a technique need to be balanced against its decreased future benefits. Because of market and political failures, an inferior allocation of the use of such techniques is likely to occur, as is demonstrated in this chapter.
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